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
2. Peter Doig, Cabin Essence — $14.8 million
3. Cy Twombly, Untitled — $12.2 million
4. Christopher Wool, Untitled — $7.56 million
5. Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (The Black Athlete) — $6.3 million
6. Mark Bradford, Constitution IV — $5.87 million
7. Alberto Burri, Rosso Plastica M1 — $5.33 million
8. Agnes Martin, Untitled — $4.9 million
9. Andy Warhol, Lenin — $4.73 million
10. Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, Attese — $4.29 million