Record tumble at Christie’s February auctions

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Christie’s February week of Post-War & Contemporary Art auctions in London, including Eyes Wide

Open: An Italian Vision welcomed new and established bidders who competed for an array of masterpieces at every price level, resulting in a combined total of £1.7 million, beating the previous record set by Christie’s in June 2012 of £148 million.

This demonstrated an appetite for significant works of quality, which saw bidding from around the world, and created 28 records.

Francis Outred, Christie’s international director, head of post-war & contemporary art, Europe, said: “Last week was a landmark for the Post-War and Contemporary Art market in Europe. Christie’s managed to break its own existing record from June 2012 for any week of sales in the category in Europe by 15% (the 2012 record was £148 million).

“The week’s overall total of £176 million includes the highest price for any Post-War and Contemporary Art work sold in Europe set by Francis Bacon’s Portrait of George Dyer Talking from

1966, which was also the world record for any single panel by the artist.”
She said that the collection Eyes Wide Open: An Italian Vision also broke through all expectations, achieving substantial new record prices for Alberto Burri alongside most of the key Arte Povera artists, some of whose works doubled their previous records.

“This signalled a huge shift in these markets and a recognition of the quality and historical importance of these works,” she said. “The sale was notable for strong international bidding and appreciation of Italian art, which continued into the Evening Auction, second only to Christie’s June 2012 auction for a single auction in Europe, where a further 7 artist records were achieved, including the historic price of £7million for Domenico Gnoli’s Black Hair.”

Elsewhere, the new record for Gerald Laing, more than double his previous level, proved the impact of the When Britain Went Pop exhibition at Christie’s Mayfair at the end of 2013, and the high sell-through rates of the Day Auction showed the strength of the market at all levels.

“We are also proud of the high price achieved for Damien Hirst’s Mickey, which far exceeded its estimate,and was sold to benefit the charity Kids Company,” added Outred.

The top price of the week was paid for Francis Bacon’s Portrait of George Dyer Talking, which sold for £42.2 million, a record price at auction for a single panel by the artist and the most expensive work of Post-War and Contemporary Art sold at auction in Europe.

This follows the success of the sale of the Francis Bacon triptych in New York last November, which sold for $142 million, a world record price for a work of art at auction. The two top prices for Bacon of all time have now been made at Christie’s.