A gallery assistant poses with British artist and scientist Francis Bacon's "Study for Self-Portrait, 1980" at Sotheby's acution house in central London on June 14, 2012. The painting has an esitmated value of 5 - 7 million GBP (8 - 11 million USD) and is due to be sold at it's forthcoming sale of Impressionaist and Modern Art and Contemporary Art sale on June 19, 2012. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEALLEON NEAL/AFP/GettyImages
Blue-chip contemporary artworkds continued to bring record prices at Art Basel and two other recent sales in Europe, but the market for lesser works appears to be cooling.
Paintings by Yves Klein, Jean- Michel Basquiat have sold for record prices as battling billionaires spent $207 million at the most valuable auction of contemporary artworks held in Europe.
The contest for exceptional works by the most lauded names of postwar and 20th-century art at Christies International, London, was topped by the $36.7 million for a sponge painting by the French conceptualist Klein.
People are still prepared to pay top prices, the London- based dealer, Stephen Friedman, said in an interview. The works have to be fresh, though, and great quality.
Concern about the euro and economic growth is making buyers more tentative for lesser works. The auction raised $208.5 million with fees against a low estimate of $161 million, based on hammer prices. The previous evening, a less trophy-studded auction of contemporary pieces at Sothebys brought $108.4 million, down about $63 million from last year.
The market is turning a bit, Morgan Long of the London- based Fine Art Fund, said in an interview. Quite a few things sold for, or below, their low estimates. There isnt the same depth of demand as a year ago. Buyers are a bit exhausted and estimates were punchy. From now on, people will be concentrating on the blue-chip.
Kleins 1960 painted relief Le Rose du bleu (RE 22), encrusted with sea sponges, was valued at as much as 20 million pounds and guaranteed by a third-party bid. It was won by a telephone bid taken by Francis Outred, Christies European head of contemporary art.
Three other guaranteed works sold for more than $15 million, with another $33.7 million for the 1964 Francis Bacon Study for Self-Portrait against a valuation of as much as $31 million.
A self-portrait by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for a record 12.9 million pounds. The 1981 Untitled was entered by a collector from the West Coast of the U.S. who bought it for a record $14.6 million at auction in 2007. Brett Gorvy, Christies international head of postwar and contemporary art, was the winning bidder for a telephone client.
The 1989 Gerhard Richter abstract Struktur (2), was also bought by Gorvy for a client. It was another guaranteed work fresh to the auction market and made 12.7 million pounds.
Richter had been on a bull run at contemporary art auctions since a Sothebys auction in November in New York, when a group of eight of his abstracts all sold above their upper estimates. Christies achieved another record for the Cologne-based artist when $21.8 million was paid for the 1993 painting, Abstraktes Bild (798-3) in New York in May.
A 1986 Richter abstract with an asking price of $20 million-$25 million was sold earlier this month by the New York-based Pace Gallery at the Art Basel fair in Basel, Switzergland, the parent fair of Art Basel Miami Beach. At this years fair, the VIP preview traditionally a single afternoon was extended to two days to meet growing demand from both established collectors and new buyers.
At the Christies sale, aother guaranteed lots struggled to attract external bids. Lucian Freuds 1974 Naked Portrait II and Alexander Calders 1959-1963 mobile Rouge triomphant (Triumphant Red) sold to bids from their guarantors for $6.75 million and $9.3 million respectively.
At a Sothebys sale also in London, collectors spent a total $108.4 million, pushing a Glenn Brown painting to three times the artists record while remaining choosy about secondary works by auction stars such as Gerhard Richter and Francis Bacon.
The top price there was $8.8 million for Jean-Michel Basquiats 1982 painting Warrior, showing a lone black figure brandishing a sword.
Glenn Browns giant landscape The Tragic Conversion of Salvador Dali (After John Martin) fetched a record $8.2 million to a telephone bid, beating five other telephone bidders represented by Sothebys staff, at least two of whom regularly bid for Russian clients, dealers said.
The previous highest price for Brown was the $2.5 million paid for the 2004 panel painting Filth at Phillips in New York in May 2011.
But Bacons 1980 canvas Study for Self-Portrait was also guaranteed and brough $7 million, attracting just one irrevocable bid. It had been estimated at $7.8 million to $11 million.
There is fatigue, and look at the financial situation, the Spanish-based dealer Fernando Mignoni said in an interview.
Billionaires want fabulous works by acknowledged masters, the New York-based art adviser David Nisinson said in an interview. Not every work is going to sell. Theres a lot on the market. People know it isnt the last work by this artist theyre going to see.