Sotheby’s has record European contemporary sale, despite Bacon not selling


Bacon on sale at Christie's London. Image courtesy of Christie's

The Sotheby’s evening sale achieved £130.4 million ($204.7 Million) the auction house’s highest total for an auction of Contemporary Art in Europe. The previous record was £123.5 million set in February. However the presale estimate of the sale was between £142.2 and £202.6 million, meaning that although some lots sold well, the sale on the whole fell short of the low estimate.

Christie’s Post War and Contemporary sale fell behind the Sotheby’s total reaching only £95.6 million. Other items of note in the sale included Chris Ofili’s controversial painting ‘Holy Virgin Mary’ which sold for a new record of £2.8 million.

A Francis Bacon portrait failed to sell at Sotheby’s Contemporary and Post-War evening sale this week. The painting ‘Study for a Pope I’ was not guaranteed by Sotheby’s. It was estimated to sell for between £25 and £35 million and was expected to lead the sale.

The sales of other Bacon works at the summer sales this July have not been affected.

Sotheby’s sold two newly discovered works which brought in more than £30 million in total. ‘Self Portrait’ sold for £15.3 million exceeding its £15 million high estimate. ‘Three studies for Self-Portrait’ sold for £14.7 million just shy of its high estimate of £15 million.

Two works by Bacon also led Christie’s Post War and Contemporary evening sale. ‘Study for the Head of Isabel Rawsthorne and George Dyer’ led the sale achieving a hammer price of £12.1 million. The other work, ‘Two Men in a Field’ a landscape painted in 1971 sold for £10.7 million, exceeding its high estimate.

Bacon’s work was expected to do well after previous strong results at auction. Until earlier this year his work held the record for the most expensive painting ever sold at auction. The record was set by his painting ‘Three Studies of Lucian Freud’ which sold in 2013 for $142.4 million (£91 million) at Christie’s New York. In May the work lost this title when Picasso’s ‘Les Femmes d’Alger (“Version O”)’ sold for $179.4 million (£114.7 million) also at Christie’s New York.