Christie’s Does Well Despite An Eleventh Hour Withdrawal
It is an uncertain market post Brexit, especially in Britain and when an unnamed American collector decided to take the top lot off of the auction at Christie’s, it sure made for a frazzled beginning of the event. Pulling out of the 1994 Abstraktes Bild that had been drawn for an estimated value of £14 million was a big blow to the auction house and indicated that Christie’s would be having the smallest value auction for the month of June since the year 2009.
In a pleasant turn of the events, however, the Brexit blues were warded off as works of artists like Sean Scully, Adrian Ghenie and Jean-Michel Basquiat garnered fabulous prices to go on and contribute to quite a respectable total of £33.7 million and scored near middle of the estimate of £26.3 million to £37.7 million with quite a healthy sell through rate of 92%.
The eleventh hour withdrawal of the work by Richter from the auction is explained by head of post- war and contemporary art in London at Christie’s, Edmund Francey as an instruction coming from the client. However, the Belgian collector Alain Servaice explains that there is a possibility that the seller was not willing to bring the reserve price for the work down, indicating that the interest in the painting was quite low ahead of the auction. Servais also stated that the whole incident had no connection to the Brexit except maybe for the fact that Britain like the whole global art market is almost as uncertain and fickle.
There were a total of 39 lots on offer, ten of which were acquired by UK based collectors or buyers. Among these ten was the 1962 dollar bill painting in black and white by Andy Warhol which brought the hammer down at £3.9 million. The fact that the auction house gave a clear breakdown of the buyers from UK is quite a strategically taken decision, mostly to benefit the sale organized on the occasion of its 250th anniversary sale of British art that was organized on the 30th of June. The figures however, truly is noticeable, especially since the US and the Asian bidders have been dominating all the UK exhibitions that have been organized post Brexit due to the steep dip in the value of pound.
The well famed actor Johnny Depp had consigned two Basquiat paintings, one of which was acquired by an Asian collector who was bidding on phone through Elaine Holt. Pork (1981) painted on door ended up being sold for the highest value at £4.5 million. The second work too was painted in the same year and was a self-portrait that was bought for £3.1 million by the New York dealer William Acquavella.
London based art adviser, Aphrodite Gonou was heard saying that there seemed to be a great number of US and Asian bidders and a good number of high priced works actually ended up going to Asia.
The Brexit scare for the art market seems to have been dispelled, momentarily, however, as Gonou points out, the real picture will only be clear once we move in to the next season that is the autumn session of sales. The factor that worked favorably for the sales was the big dip in the value of pound, which effectively ended up attracting a lot more interest than expected.