Sotheby’s Boosts Private Sales With Beuys at New Gallery

Sotheby’s, the New York-based auction house, will open a new art gallery for private sales in London this fall with a show of works by the German artist Joseph Beuys during “Frieze Week.”

The debut show at S|2, opposite the back entrance of the company’s New Bond Street auction rooms, will open on Oct. 10, Sotheby’s said last night in an emailed statement. The five-week exhibition will coincide with the Frieze Art Fair, one of the “must-attend” events of the contemporary art world calendar.

“In response to the growing demand from our clients to transact continuously -- not just in the traditional sales seasons -- we plan to host five selling exhibitions per year,” Cheyenne Westphal, Sotheby’s European head of contemporary art, said in the statement.

Discreet transactions are a significant growth area for Sotheby’s and Christie’s International, the world’s two biggest auction houses. London’s Mayfair -- the most expensive square on a U.K. Monopoly board game -- has become a focus for high-end art galleries as international billionaires buy the U.K. capital’s most expensive real estate.

Private sales at Sotheby’s increased 11 percent in 2012, accounting for $906.5 million of a $5.4 billion total.

A figure of 631.3 million pounds ($981 million) -- an increase of 26 percent -- was achieved by London-based Christie’s, which took a record $6.23 billion last year. Christie’s retains the Bond Street gallery of its former wholly-owned dealership Haunch of Venison as an exhibition space for private sales.

New York

Sotheby’s is expanding its own operation. The auction house confirmed in May that it would be opening a private-sales gallery at 31 St. George Street. The company has been holding regular selling events at its S|2 facility in New York since September 2011.

Its Manhattan branch will host an exhibition of works by the Italian Arte Povera artist Giuseppe Penone from Sept. 20-Oct. 20. A pop-up S|2 show of Andy Warhol works on paper will take place in Hong Kong from Sept. 12 to Sept. 24.

“Joseph Beuys Revealed” will consist of 12 works on paper and a bronze sculpture from the early years of the artist’s career, ranging from 1947 to 1966. All the works have been consigned by a private European collector, who bought from Beuys’s first exhibitions at Galerie Alfred Schmela in Dusseldorf.

Prices for the drawings range from 70,000 pounds to 200,000 pounds, said Sotheby’s.

Bomber Gunner

A former rear-gunner of a Luftwaffe “Stuka” dive bomber that was shot down on the Russian front in 1944, Beuys is regarded by critics and curators as the most influential of the experimental “Fluxus” artists working in the second half of the 20th century.

He is particularly admired for his shamanistic performance pieces, such as the 1965 “How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare.” His art has made less of an impact on the commercial auction market. Just one work has reached seven-figures at a public sale.

The 1950 bronze “Bett,” depicting an abstract organic form stuck in a vice, sold for $1 million with fees at Sotheby’s New York in 2008. Another version of this sculpture, cast in a numbered edition of six, plus two artist’s proofs, in the late 1960s, will be included in Sotheby’s S|2 show. The auction house declined to release a price for the piece.

Commercial Prices

Representative, museum-quality works by Beuys can command substantial prices in commercial galleries.

Last October, the Paris- and Salzburg-based dealer Thaddaeus Ropac opened his new space on the outskirts of the French capital with a selection of works sourced directly from the German artist’s estate.

Cymbals used in Beuys’s 1969 performance “Titus Andronicus/ Iphigenie” were priced at 1 million euros ($1.32 million).

Leading New York dealers Pace, Michael Werner, David Zwirner and Skarstedt all opened spaces in the Mayfair area last year, attracted by billionaire collectors such as Roman Abramovich, Victor Pinchuk and Lily Safra, who own properties in the U.K. capital.

Sotheby’s new gallery is next door to the New York private dealer Eykyn Maclean, who opened a space in St. George Street last February. Nearby hotels such as Claridge’s and the Connaught accommodate art buyers during auction weeks.

Muse highlights include Warwick Thompson on U.K. theater, Laurie Muchnick on books, Greg Evans on U.S. television and Mike Di Paola on conservation.

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