Richter work tops Sotheby’s London contemporary art evening auction

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Gerhard Richter’s monumental Wand (Wall) (1994) sold at Sotheby’s London on Wednesday for £17.4 million (estimate in excess of £15 million). This is the third highest price for any painting by the artist, and the second highest price for one of his abstract works.

The painting, never before seen at auction, was held by Richter to be a work of such importance that he chose to keep it in his personal collection for over fifteen years, singling it out as a keynote work for many important museum exhibitions.

Over two-thirds of the works offered at the sale had never been seen at auction, including Cy Twombly’s Untitled (Rome), Alberto Burri’s Rosso Plastica, Lucian Freud’s Head on a Green Sofa and Frank Auerbach’s Morning – Mornington Place.

“Global participation was evident throughout the sale process, with works consigned from 14 countries and participants from 40 countries – among the highest levels of participation seen in the category at Sotheby’s London,” said Sotheby’s in a release.

This was the 12th consecutive Contemporary Art Evening Auction at Sotheby’s worldwide with a sell-through rate over 80%. 91.5% of sold lots achieved prices at or above their pre-sale estimates.

A new auction record was set for a painting by Cy Twombly when Untitled (Rome) from 1964 sold significantly above estimate to a round of applause for £12.2 million (estimate £5-7million).

That is the second highest price ever paid for any work by the artist after his Poems to the Sea, which set a new benchmark in our New York salesroom in November ($21.7 million). Never before offered at auction, this painting was acquired by the consignor in the 1970s.

Andy Warhol’s red canvas Mao (1973) was sought after by three bidders before selling for £7.6 million (estimate £5.5-7.5m) – almost 20 times the sum it sold for when last at auction (at Sotheby’s London June 2000 £421,500).

Considered by Lucian Freud to be among the best works he ever produced and painted at a pivotal moment in his career, Head on a Green Sofa (1960-61) sold for £2.9 million (estimate £2.5-3.5 million)

Demonstrating the enduring appeal for London School works, a rediscovered masterpiece by Frank Auerbach (1971-72) appearing at auction for the first time. Morning – Mornington Place fetched £1.8 million – double its top estimate (estimate £600,000-800,000).