Estimated at £1.2m-1.8m, the large-scale picture from 1958 has never appeared at auction before.
The vendor bought it more than two decades ago and it was previously exhibited at Lowry’s retrospective at the Royal Academy in 1976. It was last shown at AMNUA in Nanjing, China in 2014.
Works by Lowry frequently depict industrial landscapes, public fairs or crowds marching to sports grounds but the subject of an auction actually taking place is seemingly unique in the artist’s oeuvre.
He is known to painted a small handful of interior scenes such intimate family groups, a doctor’s surgery, an election rally and an outpatients’ hall, and he did touch on the subject of auctions with a 1952 painting depicting the exterior of Jackson’s auction house in Manchester with furniture piled up outside. Earlier on in his career, he also created a drawing titled Selling Up the Old Antiques Shop.
Frances Christie, deputy chairman of Sotheby’s UK & Ireland, said: “The artist was no stranger to auctions himself and, as an avid collector of clocks and Pre-Raphaelite art, he indulged his passion with bids in salerooms from Manchester to London.
“He often kept track of his own pictures passing through Sotheby’s later in life, witnessing an appreciation for his work that formed a total contrast to the outset of his career when he struggled for recognition.”
While Lowry did not sell a single work at his first exhibition in Manchester in 1921, he found much success later on with prices for his works reaching £7000 during his lifetime. The financial independence that he gained allowed him to acquire artworks by young artists like Sheila Fell and Lucian Freud, as well as the Pre-Raphaelites whom he had always favoured. The artist acquired several important works including a version of Rossetti’s Proserpine which he bought at an auction in 1964 for 5000 guineas.
The auction of The Auction takes place on November 23. It will be exhibited to the public ahead of the sale from November 18-22.