Andy Warhol’s Fontana Painting Boosts $9 Million London Auction

A Lucio Fontana “slashed” canvas formerly owned by Andy Warhol was the top seller in an auction that raised $9 million as trademark works by contemporary artists continued to attract collectors and investors.

The 1960 cream-colored “Concetto spaziale, Attese” -- with six of the Italian conceptual artist’s cuts making it instantly recognizable as his work -- fetched 1 million pounds ($1.65 million) including fees. It was among 25 lots of contemporary art offered by Phillips de Pury & Co. in London last night.

“Prices are strong,” the Paris-based collector John Sayegh-Belchatowski said. “The market is deep, not like the fantasy of 2007,” said Sayegh-Belchatowski, who was outbid on the two lots he hoped to buy.

Contemporary art is attracting newer buyers, with many opting for signature works by well-known artists such as Gerhard Richter, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. The Phillips event followed evening sales at Christie’s International and Sotheby’s that took a combined total of 131.3 million pounds with about 90 percent of the lots successful.

The Fontana was bought with a single bid from Phillips’s Moscow-based specialist Svetlana Marich, representing a client on the telephone. The price with fees equaled the low estimate, based on hammer prices. The work, with its prestigious provenance, would have attracted more competition if it hadn’t been previously offered on the market, dealers said.

Slimline Sale

Phillips’s auction, described as “a slimline sale of classics” by Michael McGinnis, the company’s worldwide head of contemporary art, came at the end of two weeks of contemporary, Impressionist and modern auctions in the U.K. capital. The Phillips event raised 5.7 million pounds with just two lots failing. It had been valued at between 5.2 million pounds and 7.7 million pounds.

Four works sold for hammer prices above valuations. Among these was Cindy Sherman’s 2003 photographic self portrait, “Untitled #410,” showing the artist in a clown’s mask and cowboy hat, which attracted at least four telephone bidders before selling for 433,250 pounds with fees. It was one of three guaranteed lots, with an estimate of 200,000 pounds to 300,000 pounds.

Warhol himself was represented by a 1974 blue, brown and orange “Mao” silkscreen painting. This sold for 457,250 pounds to a telephone buyer against an Asian underbidder in the room. It had been valued at 300,000 pounds to 500,000 pounds.

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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