Saturday, June 23, 2007

Highest Price For Living Artist At Auction: Hirst $19.2 M

Highest Price For Living Artist At Auction: Hirst $19.2 M

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Damien Hirst's Lullaby Spring sold for $19.2 million. Highest price for a work by a living artist. ©Sotheby’s.

LONDON.- Sotheby’s week of sales concluded today, having realised a total of £204,766,360 – the highest total for any series of sales ever staged by the company in Europe. Robin Woodhead, Chief Executive, Sotheby’s International said: “This was the highest totaling week of sales London has ever seen – confirming beyond all doubt London’s rapid ascent as a central hub in the art market. The vigour of the activity in the salerooms this week was tremendous, especially with the highest price for the work of a living artist set at Sotheby’s for Damien Hirst’s Lullaby Spring. The extraordinary prices achieved this week at Sotheby’s, particularly those for Francis Bacon’s Self Portrait and Claude Monet’s Nymphéas, – at £21.5 million and £18.5 million, respectively the two top prices of the week – are testament to the fact that today's collectors want the very best the market has to offer, and they are prepared to fight hard to get it. Bidding across the sales was truly global. New buyers locked horns with long-time collectors in a bid to secure top masterpieces.”

New benchmarks were set as the average price of the works sold was higher than ever before (£2.17 million for works in the Impressionist & Modern evening sale, versus a previous London high of £1.5 million, and £1 million for works in the Contemporary evening sale). Six works were sold for over £4 million; 33 works were sold for over £1 million; 60 works were sold for over $1 million. No fewer than 13 artist’s auction records were established at Sotheby’s, many for works by leading artists such as Damien Hirst and Henri Matisse, others for Contemporary Chinese artists such as Yue Minjun and Liu Ye. The sales were characterized by truly global bidding, with activity from Asia, Russia, the US and Europe. Bidding was particularly strong from the UK. The week was punctuated with moments of particular excitement, for example, the moment when…

Auction history was made as Damien Hirst’s pill cabinet Lullaby Spring soared to £9.6 ($19.2) million, making Hirst the most expensive living artist at auction. The work had been estimated at £3–4 million.

The Contemporary evening sale brought the highest price of the auction week in London, when Francis Bacon’s Self Portrait sold to a private American collector for the spectacular price of £21.58 ($43) million – double its estimate of £8-12 million. Its dramatic sale followed fast on the heels of the unprecedented success of Bacon’s Study from Innocent X, which was sold at Sotheby’s New York in May 2007 for a world record price of $52.6 million.

Claude Monet’s Nymphéas of 1904, realised £18,500,000 ($36,724,350) – the second highest price ever achieved for a work by the artist at auction and the second highest price of the entire week of London sales. The price achieved fell just short of the record of £19.8 ($33 million), achieved for Bassin aux Nymphéas of 1900 at Sotheby’s London in 1998.

Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening sale exceeded its top estimate by 26%, realizing £72,427,600, against a top estimate of £57.1 million

The average lot value in the Impressionist evening sale hit £2.17 million – an average price that is unprecedented in any auction ever held in London.

The average lot value in the Contemporary evening sale hit £1,097,387 – the first time average lot value in a European Contemporary sale has exceeded £1 million.

Over 66% of works sold in the Contemporary evening sale realized prices in excess of their top estimate, while over 50% of works sold in the Impressionist evening sale realised prices in excess of high estimate.

The sales attracted large crowds: tickets for seats at the Impressionist evening sale were oversubscribed – despite the addition of two auxiliary auction rooms (each with an additional auctioneer – relaying bids into the main auction room) to accommodate overflow. At the Contemporary evening sale, the auction room was filled to capacity.

An unprecedented number of telephone bids were registered: 40 telephone lines were installed for the Impressionist evening sale – with almost every work carrying multiple telephone bids; 60 telephones lines were installed for the Contemporary evening sale; a total of 274 bids were left on 73 lots in the Contemporary evening sale.

£1,520,400 ($3,029,549) was raised for the NPSCC – over three times the top expectation for the group of five works that had been donated by Damien Hirst, Keith Tyson, Tracey Emin, Antony Gormley and Grayson Perry to benefit the NSPCC’s Treatment and Therapeutic Services. Tracey Emin attended the auction to rally the bidding, with great success. Her neon work entitled Keep Me Safe sold for £60,000 ($119,556), a record for the medium. Meanwhile, Keith Tyson’s Nature Painting, sold for £216,000 ($430,402) – a record for the artist.

Further demonstrating the international appeal and continued demand for Chinese Contemporary Art, seven works by some of China’s most important contemporary artists performed exceptionally well in the contemporary evening sale. Together, the works realised a combined total of £4,861,600 ($9,687,224), against pre-sale estimate of £1.5-2 million. The top-selling work among them was Yue Minjun’s The Pope, which sold for £2,148,000 - more than twice its pre-sale high estimate, £800,000 more than the previous record, and the highest price for a work of Chinese Contemporary Art at auction. Interest in these works was tremendous: a total of 81 absentee bids were left on these 7 works alone, with 22 bids registered for Liu Ye’s Untitled.

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