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A forward look at prices at the high end of the upcoming Contemporary art sales in London

[16 Jun 2015]

 

London’s major Contemporary art sales are looming closer. The three evening sales – for which the auctioneers reserve their most prestigious lots – will be held from June 29 to July 1 at Phillips, Christie’s and Sotheby’s, in that order. The objective here is quality not quantity (although Christie’s catalog uses almost 500 pages to present its 75 lots): a selection of the very best the art market has to offer. Less than 200 lots will be presented in three evenings (53 at Phillips on June 29 and 59 at Sotheby’s on July 1). It is certainly no coincidence that among the carefully selected works in these sales, the artists who are selling particularly well at the moment are very well represented. To enhance our understanding of the market in the run up to these sales, Artprice.com takes a look at the estimates given for the top eight “flagship” signatures.

How much will Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francis Bacon, Yves Klein, Christopher Wool, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter and Lucio Fontana generate during these three sales? Which artist is likely to generate the highest total? Based on the high/low estimates provided by the auction houses, we have combined the totals at each auctioneer to make a ranking of the turnovers expected for these artists over the three days:

Francis BACON – £87m
At the top of the list, Francis Bacon: the five works proposed – including a rare work from his iconic Popes series at Sotheby’s – are expected to yield between £60m and £87m. Note that the top end of that range exceeds the total annual art auction turnover generated in Austria, the world’s 9th marketplace for art auction sales.Andy WARHOL – £63.93m
Sixteen works by Andy Warhol are expected to fetch between £56.57m and £63.93m (9 at Sotheby’s, 2 at Christie’s and 5 at Phillips).
This year, Sotheby’s has very substantially beaten its rival Christie’s on the Warhol front with a much denser and more valuable selection. In fact, the American firm Sotheby’s is hoping to generate between £51m and £57m from its nine Warhol lots. If so, it will probably generate a higher overall sales total than Christie’s, despite its fewer lots.Gerhard RICHTER – £41.5m
With 10 lots, Gerhard Richter is expected to generate upwards of £40m, an impressive total – close to that generated in one year by the Netherlands (ranked 14th art auction marketplace in the world) – and one that is very likely to be achieved considering the artist’s latest auction record of £30.389m (including fees) for an abstract work sold at Sotheby’s London on February 10, 2015.Sigmar POLKE – £11.4m
Surprise: Sigmar Polke is expected to beat Jean-Michel Basquiat! Polke has become one of the hottest artists of the Contemporary art scene. His price index has soared by almost 500% in 10 years. In 2014, he came 45th in the global ranking of Contemporary artists by annual auction turnover.Lucio FONTANA – £10.8m
Fontana generated his first auction result above £10m last May (his Concetto spaziale, Attese fetched £10.6m including fees on May 10, 2015 at Christie’s New York), so the sale of five works by the artist should not be a problem. The most majestic work is in the Sotheby’s catalog: a Concept spatial with 10 slits on a red background. It has been earmarked at £4m, but could climb much higher.Jean-Michel BASQUIAT – £7.8m
Two works by Basquiat are expected to generate between £5m and £7.8m at Sotheby’s: Brown Eggs, and a major work from 1982 entitled Orange Sports Figure that has already been auctioned twice in the past, once in 1992 and then again in February 2012 when it fetched £4m including fees at Sotheby’s. It is now carrying a high estimate of £7m… a potential gain of £3m in just three years, and a good test of whether or not Basquiat inflation is still happening.Christopher WOOL – £7.8m
Christopher Wool remains an undisputed best-seller at major Contemporary art sales. This time there are just two works, one at Sotheby’s and a second, more important, at Christie’s, which, together, are expected to generate between £5m and £7.8m.Yves KLEIN – £ 7.6m
If Christie’s manages to sell the three works by Yves Klein, the total could well be significantly higher than £7.6m because one is a superb untitled Fire Painting (FC27) from 1962 with good provenance (Francois de Menil collection) and whose estimate has not been disclosed. His best Fire Painting ever sold at auction – the large format FC1 (Fire Color 1) – reached £22.5m in 2012 at Christie’s. FC27 is smaller, but could surprise as Klein’s Fire Paintings are rare on the market.

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