The picture offered at Sotheby’s Contemporary art evening auction last night titled The Architect’s Home in the Ravine suffered from a lack of market freshness having already appeared twice at Sotheby’s and twice at Christie’s since 2002. It last sold for £11.3m at Christie’s London in February 2016 where it was bought by Sotheby’s vendor here.
This time it was offered with a £14m-18m estimate and a symbol in the printed catalogue denoted that the picture had been guaranteed by the auctioneers. Immediately before the sale however, Sotheby’s auctioneer Oliver Barker included the lot in the list of works that he announced were now subject to ‘irrevocable bids’.
Around half an hour later when the work was offered from the rostrum, no interest came forth in the saleroom or on the phones and the picture was knocked down at £13.2m to a member of Sotheby’s staff evidently on behalf of the irrevocable bidder.
While the Contemporary art market is usually less fixated with market freshness compared with other sectors, the lack of demand here indicated that it is not immune from its effects.
The work itself dated from 1991, a year after Doig graduated from his Master’s degree and not longer after he was awarded the Whitechapel Artist’s award. The Architect’s Home in the Ravine was one of four works the artist chose to be included in the subsequent show at the Whitechapel Gallery – the others included Rosedale, another painting from 1991 that currently holds the record for Doig when it sold for $28.8m (£22.3m) including premium at Phillips New York last May.
The subject of the 6ft 7in x 8ft 3in (2m x 2.5m) oil on canvas relates a building remembered from the artist’s childhood in Canada – the home of Eberhard Zeidler, in the Toronto suburb of Rosedale.
In the summer of 1991 Doig visited the site as part of a team of artists and architects working on its restoration as the building had been derelict since 1973. He was struck by the view of the modernist building within the dense surrounding forest and it became an important feature in his art of the period.
Gormley and Perry bring interest
Elsewhere at the Sotheby’s sale some decent competition came for a maquette of Antony Gormley’s famous Angel of the North sculpture. Estimated at £1.5m-2m, it was pursued by three bidders including art advisor Hugo Nathan who was in the room, before it was knocked down at £2.4m to a telephone bidder.
Further down the price scale but also bringing keen interest, a Grayson Perry glazed earthenware vase from 1996 was chased by four bidders who took it over the £80,000-120,000 estimate before it was knocked down at £140,000. With the tongue-in-cheek title Oiks, Tarts, Weirdos and Contemporary Art, it was decorated with a medley of characters from different social backgrounds including the figure of Lucian Freud.
The overall sale total was £109m.