Auctioneers eye $1 billion haul in London’s summer art sales
Reuters PhotoWith an Atlantic tailwind from May auctions in New York, in which the two biggest auction houses sold art pieces totaling more than $2 billion, many eyes are focused on major sales which began this week in London, sales which may see prices soar again to dizzying heights, Reuters has reported.
In three days of sales Christie’s also became the first auction house to sell more than $1 billion worth of art. Adding in Sotheby’s sales, the total topped $2 billion.
“We’ve entered into a phase which I really think is a masterpiece market,” Christie’s Katharine Arnold, who is running the post-war and contemporary art evening sale on June 30, said. Featuring paintings by Francis Bacon, Yves Klein and Gerhard Richter, the 76 lots are estimated to fetch $132-187 million.
Not to be outdone, Sotheby’s is heralding its July 1 evening sale as “London’s highest valued auction of contemporary art.”
Arnold said the skyrocketing prices for fine art being fetched at auction were bringing more such works to market.
“There are art works in private collections which are just starting to move, some objects that have been within families for 60-plus years,” she said.
Among those are works by Anglo-Irish painter Bacon, one of whose diptychs featuring his lover George Dyer and his muse Isabelle Rawsthorne, from 1967, is estimated at 8-12 million pounds at Christie’s.
All told, Bacon could account for around 15 percent or more of the value of all the paintings sold over the next two weeks, indicating how his stock has soared.
“Bacon is an artist whose market has transformed radically, even over the last 10 years,” Sotheby’s senior specialist in contemporary art Oliver Barker said.
“I think he’s now become one of the absolute icons of the latter part of the 20th century.”
While auction houses tend to see nothing but blue skies and higher prices, other art market observers suggest external factors, such as a Greek debt default, or a decision by central banks to hike interest rates making bonds a more attractive investment, could alter the playing field.
“There’ve been low interest rates especially in the United States and that creates asset bubbles,” ArtReview magazine associate editor Jonathan T.D. Neil said.
“I don’t think this is a bubble yet,” he said. “And if your money can’t earn a return you might as well have some good art to put on the wall - if you can afford it.”
Rodin sculpture fetches $1.1 million
A sculpture by renowned French artist Auguste Rodin, only cast in bronze for the first time last year, sold for more than $1 million at a London sale on June 23, according to Agence France-Presse.
“Conceived in 1913 for a play, this sculpture was never cast as the molds containing the upper part of the arms were only found very recently,” said Pierre Martin-Vivier of Christie’s auction house in a statement.
Only in 2014, during research into Rodin’s donations to the French state, did the museum housing the artist’s work uncover the complete mold, allowing it to be cast in bronze.
The 2.15 meter piece, which shows the nude goddess of love with her arms elegantly stretched above her head, fetched $1,148,053.
“Animated by a gentle swing provoked by the weight of her own body, Aphrodite cannot properly be called a standing nude, rather the figure seems to be suspended, her feet only touching the earth lightly,” said the auction house of the piece.
The lot was sold as part of the auction house’s Impressionist and Modern Art sale, which also saw pieces by Pablo Picasso, Rene Magritte, Paul Cezanne and Marc Chagall go under the hammer.
The evening’s top seller was “Iris Mauves” by French impressionist Claude Monet, which went for $17,216,021.