Albert Oehlen, Selbstporträt mit Palette (Self-portrait with Palette) (2005) (Image: © Christie’s Images Limited 2017)
The contemporary art auction market received a much-needed shot in the arm at Christie’s last night. In large part due to well-pitched estimates, the auction house achieved £82.2m or £96.4m with fees (est £67.6m-£101.6m), up 65% on last year’s total. Of the 56 lots offered, 35.7% went above high estimate and 46.4% sold within estimate. Only three works went unsold.
“The market is back this year,” Francis Outred, Christie's head of post-war and contemporary art in Europe, said after the sale.
There were seven records for artists including Albert Oehlen, whose Self-Portrait with Palette (2005) made £2.5m (£3m with fees; est £2.5m-£3.5m), and Njideka Akunyili Crosby, whose 2012 painting of her younger sister posing as Velázquez’s Prince Baltasar Carlos, fetched £2.1m (£2.5m with fees; est £400,000-£600,000). Both works carried third-party guarantees.
Njideka Akunyili Crosby, The Beautyful Ones (2012) (Image: © Christie’s Images Limited 2017)
Crosby’s result–three times her previous record–is perhaps not surprising given that she only produces around seven paintings a year. “No one can buy her work from her galleries, there are currently 18 museums on the waiting list,” Outred says. The auction house declined to comment on whether the canvas was bought by a museum.
Zero Group member Günther Uecker also saw a record for a nail-studded diptych that Christie’s originally catalogued as two lots. A last-minute request from the artist meant the work was sold as one piece (as Uecker conceived it), fetching £2.2m (£2.6m with fees; est £1m-£1.5m). The lot was also subject to a late third-party guarantee.
On the whole, guarantees were slightly down from last year, representing £14.6m or 21.6% of the overall value of the sale compared with £15m or just under 30% in February 2016. “We have adopted a very cautious strategy concerning guarantees over the past two years,” Outred says. “What we are noticing is that our sellers want to see a real marketplace.”