The Creepy, Colorful $90 Million Stars of London’s Evening Sales

Big results from Christie's, Sotheby's, and Phillips start the art season off with a bang.

The art market passed its first big test of the new season. London auctions of postwar and contemporary art, coinciding with Frieze Art Fair, drew huge crowds and surpassed the results of the previous year. The top 10 lots at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips tallied $90.7 million.

“Every season the art world holds its breath,’’ said Jussi Pylkkanen, Christie’s global president, noting the anxiety stirred by fear that results from the previous season won't be sustained.

Despite edgy financial markets, buyers bought with gusto. More than 20 artist records were set.

Phillps held a "white glove" sale at which every lot found a buyer. Postwar Italian art sales generated the most excitement, accounting for the week’s top lot: Lucio Fontana’s black, punctured, egg-shaped canvas the size of a grown adult, sold at Sotheby’s. Giorgio Morandi, Italy’s modern master who obsessively painted bottles, achieved a personal auction record at Christie’s, with three Italian and one Chinese collector competing for a still life that fetched $3.9 million. Although that price didn't make our top 10 list, it's notable all the same.

“It’s very invigorating to see that the market continues to hold its energy,’’ Pylkkanen said. See how with the rest of the big winners below.

1. Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, La Fine di Dio — $24.7 million

Lucio Fontana, Concetto spaziale, La Fine di Dio (1963).
Lucio Fontana, Concetto spaziale, La Fine di Dio (1963).
Source: Sotheby's

 

2. Peter Doig, Cabin Essence — $14.8 million

Peter Doig, Cabin Essence (1993-1994).
Peter Doig, Cabin Essence (1993-1994).
Source: Christie’s Images Limited 2015

 

3. Cy Twombly, Untitled — $12.2 million

Cy Twombly, Untitled (2006).
Cy Twombly, Untitled (2006).
Source: Phillips

 

4. Christopher Wool, Untitled — $7.56 million

Christopher Wool, Untitled.
Christopher Wool, Untitled.
Source: Christie’s Images Limited 2015

 

5. Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (The Black Athlete) — $6.3 million

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (The Black Athlete) (1982).
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (The Black Athlete) (1982).
Source: Sotheby's

 

6. Mark Bradford, Constitution IV — $5.87 million

Mark Bradford, Constitution IV (2013).
Mark Bradford, Constitution IV (2013).
Source: Phillips

 

7. Alberto Burri, Rosso Plastica M1 — $5.33 million

Alberto Burri, Rosso Plastica M1.
Alberto Burri, Rosso Plastica M1.
Source: Christie’s Images Limited 2015

 

8. Agnes Martin, Untitled — $4.9 million

Agnes Martin, Untitled.
Agnes Martin, Untitled.
Source: Sotheby's

 

9. Andy Warhol, Lenin — $4.73 million

Andy Warhol, Lenin (1986).
Andy Warhol, Lenin (1986).
Source: Sotheby's

 

10. Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, Attese — $4.29 million

Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, Attese (1967).
Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, Attese (1967).
Source: Christie’s Images Limited 2015

 

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