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Bear Witness Sale at Sotheby's London soars over estimate totalling $54,530,138
Over 1000 collectors drive auction total to 36.1m / $54.5m / €50.7m. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- The sale of one of the most extraordinary collections of our time concluded with a total of 36,124,636 / $54,530,138 / €50,679,038, exceeding all pre-sale expectations (est. 24.7 – 35.2m).

Following a week-long exhibition which drew a record 7,600 visitors to Sotheby’s New Bond Street galleries, over 1,000 collectors participated in three days of sales – over 25% of which were new to the company. Altogether the collection attracted bids from 50 countries across the world. A quarter of all registrants opted to bid online.

Alongside countless bear and skull-themed artefacts, curiosities and objets d’art, the ‘Bear Witness’ collection included 284 works of Contemporary Art, which together realised 34,567,188. This brings the total value of Contemporary Art sold at Sotheby’s London auctions so far in 2015 to a record 177.4 million.

“We’ve seen a bullish market for bears, while the market for skulls is alive and kicking. This was a collection unlike any other offered before, a modern day Wunderkammer, featuring everything from Rothko and Rembrandt Bugatti to crystal skulls and Coca-Cola. Almost every department in Sotheby’s was represented, and in every category we saw remarkable results, with all three sales surpassing their high estimate.” - Alex Branczik, Head of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s London


• Nearly all of the lots offered this week found homes, with over 80% sold by lot and 60% selling above top estimate

• Prices ranged from just 53 for a wooden child’s toy (lot 516) to 3,397,000 for a late work on paper by Mark Rothko (lot 10)

• No fewer than 180 different contemporary artists featured in the sale, ranging from works by Gerhard Richter, Lucio Fontana and Andy Warhol, to a feather-clad polar bear by Paola Pivi (lot 7) and Maurizio Cattelan’s granite monument to England’s footballing failure, listing every national defeat since 1874 (lot 49)

• Warhol reigned supreme this week, as all 21 of his works which offered for sale found buyers, led by an untitled colourful silkscreen from 1979 that nearly doubled the pre-sale estimate to sell for 581,000 (lot 20).

• Italian sculptor Rembrant Bugatti led ‘Bear Witness Part 3’, Sotheby’s first (and probably only) auction dedicated to bears and skulls. A bronze brown bear by the sculptor more than tripled the pre-sale top estimate to sell for 269,000 (lot 447)

• Altogether, 81 skulls and 153 bears were sold in Sotheby’s salesrooms this week


• Bear Witness Part 1 (10 March 2015) Total 26,511,500 / $40,019,109 / €37,192,826 (est. 18.5- 26.3m) Lots sold 44 (lots offered 50)

• Bear Witness Part 2 (11 March 2015) Total 8,934,626 / $13,486,818 / €12,534,334 (est. 8.4 – 12m) Lots sold 191 (lots offered 244)

• Bear Witness Part 3 (12 March 2015) Total 672,260 / $1,014,776 / €943,110 (est. 317,475- 467,178) Lots sold 205 (lots offered 248)

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