Sotheby's contemporary art auctions
The latest series of Impressionist & Modern and Contemporary art auctions in London posted the highest overall total on record, but were figures were boosted by the continued weakness of the sterling.

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A combination of improving consignments, the weakness of the pound and a rally on global stockmarkets helped generate a combined total of £644.2m at the two back-to-back auction series held over the last fortnight.

Sotheby’s and Christie’s contemporary art evening sales last week posted strong selling rates of over 90% and the overall total across the sales was over 40% up year-on-year.

The contemporary auctions were led by Gerhard Richter’s Eisberg, 1982 that drew five bidders at Sotheby’s and was knocked down at £15.6m against a £8-12m estimate. It followed the £42.5m hammer price for Gustav Klimt’s (1862-1918) floral painting Bauerngarten (Blumengarten), which led the Impressionist & Modern sales and meant that Sotheby’s had the highest individual price at both series.

Gerhard Richter’s Eisberg, 1982

The top lot of the contemporary art auctions in London was Gerhard Richter’s ‘Eisberg, 1982’ that was knocked down at Sotheby’s for £15.6m against a £8-12m estimate.

In numbers


The combined total of the Impressionist & Modern and Contemporary art auctions in London was £644.2m. This was the highest on record for a London fortnight, eclipsing the £610.7m posted in February 2014.


The total from the contemporary art auctions in London was £269.41m (including premium), a figure which compared to £187.3m at the series held in February 2016.


The totals at the Impressionist & Modern auctions the week before were up from £230m posted at the equivalent sales last year. It was also up over £80m on the June series.


Sotheby’s contemporary art evening sale posted a £118m total, while Christie’s sale the night before generated £96.4m total.  


Sotheby’s set their highest-ever total for a London evening sale on March 1, generating £194.8m including premium from 54 lots with 48 selling on the night.


Christie’s Impressionist & Modern evening sale and Surrealist art auction the night before raised a premium-inclusive of £136.9m with 77 of the 84 lots selling (92%).


Christie’s Impressionist & Modern sales were led by Paul Gauguin’s Te Fare (La maison) which was knocked down at £18m.


Christie’s posted a record for René Magritte’s La Corde Sensible, one of the few lots the auctioneers guaranteed, which sold just below hopes when it was knocked down at £13.5m. The huge painting from 1960 depicting a cloud-topped champagne glass fetched just £350,000 back in 1984. The previous record for Magritte was set at Sotheby’s in February 2014 when Le Beau Monde sold for £7.9m


Bauerngarten (Blumengarten) by Gustav Klimt led the Impressionist & Modern art auction series in London after it was knocked down at Sotheby’s for £42.5m.


Bonhams had a rare early work by Dali in their Impressionist and Modern Art sale on March 2. Figura de perfil (La Hermana Ana María), given by the artist to his sister before their relationship descended into turmoil, was one of 17 paintings included in Dali’s first solo exhibition at the Galeries Dalmau, Barcelona, in 1925. Offered at auction for the first time, it was estimated at £800,000-1.2m and sold at £1.5m.