Christie’s Sells $75 Million of Artworks as Frieze BeginsMary Romano
Christie’s sold 46.9 million pounds ($75.3 million) of postwar and contemporary art at the start of Frieze week in London, as a Gerhard Richter estimated at as much as 10 million pounds failed to find a buyer at the auction.
Richter’s “Netz,” a red, yellow and green abstract painting, was sold after the auction to a private U.S. collector for 5.5 million pounds, Francis Outred, head of postwar and contemporary art, Europe, said at a news conference after last night’s sale.
The 44 works, from the Essl Collection of contemporary art in Austria, produced a total that fell within the auction house’s presale estimated range of 40 million to 56.8 million pounds. Christie’s said it was the most valuable sale ever in London of a private collection of postwar and contemporary art.
Including the “Netz” sale, 40 lots found buyers, three went unsold and one work was withdrawn prior to the auction. All prices include commissions. Christie’s said Europeans and Americans were the main bidders.
The collection came from Karlheinz Essl, the founder of Austrian hardware-store chain BauMax AG, and included works by coveted German postwar artists. The privately owned Essl Museum near Vienna, which has 7,000 works, offered the 44 pieces to raise money to fund operations and “resolve certain financial issues in the business,” Jussi Pylkkanen, president of Christie’s Europe, said in an interview.
“Through the proceeds of this sale, the long-term future of the Essl Museum is now secured,” Karlheinz Essl said in a statement.
Another of Richter’s works, “Wolken (Fenster)” a panoramic vista of an early evening sky painted over four panels, was the top lot, fetching 6.2 million pounds. It beat its low estimate of 5 million pounds but fell short of its high presale value of 7 million pounds.
“It was a strong sale,” Thaddaeus Ropac, of the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in Paris, said after the auction. “The Richter was a big surprise,” he said of “Netz.”
“It had every ingredient in order for it to sell,” Ropac said. “Maybe there’s something about it we don’t know. The rest of the collection was solid.”
Ropac said he bought for his gallery two works by Georg Baselitz. “Adler,” a black and blue abstract from 1977, cost 602,500 pounds and a 1972 white bird on a green and yellow background went for 482,500 pounds.
Baselitz’s 2003 wood sculpture of a man in blue shorts and oversized black boots that stands 10 feet tall sold for 1.4 million pounds, falling short of its estimated range.
Sigmar Polke’s 1975 fiery red portrait “Indian With Eagle,” one of five Polke works for sale, blew past its estimate of 1.5 million to 2 million pounds, going for 5.1 million pounds. All the Polkes sold, for a total of more than 16 million pounds.
Martin Kippenberger’s 1992 self-portrait, valued before the sale at 2.5 million pounds to 3.5 million pounds, went for 2.9 million pounds.
Frieze Art Fair in Regent’s Park today opens to select wealthy collectors seeking to snap up artworks by contemporary stars and Old Masters. Christie’s will hold a separate auction of postwar and contemporary art on Oct. 16. Sotheby’s and Phillips also will have auctions this week.