On the Italian front, Amanti (Lovers)
(1962–66), an early and surprisingly pristine
mirror painting, or “Quadri Specchiati,” went for a slightly underperforming £2.2 million (£2.6 million with fees). Pistoletto painted an embracing couple in photorealistic detail on tissue paper on polished stainless steel, and the seller had acquired it a half-century ago in 1968 from the legendary Ileana Sonnabend Gallery in Paris. It was backed by another irrevocable bid.
Figura Femminile con Fiori (Female Figure with Flowers),
an early and massive polychrome ceramic work by
from 1948 (pre-dating his famed and prolific “Concetto Spaziale” series of the 1960s), sold at its low estimate of £1.5 million, or £1.8 million with fees. It had last sold at Sotheby’s London in October 2010 for £914,850.
But that number paled next to Concetto Spaziale, Attese (1963), a Ferrari-red Fontana bearing six vertical cuts, which launched a bidding battle that ended with a victorious telephone bid of £4.3 million (£5 million with fees), well above its £3 million high estimate. It last sold at Sotheby’s London in March 1995 for £84,000.
The evening’s last entry, ’s
widely exhibited Untitled Film Still #57
(1980), one of a small edition of three gelatin silver prints, sold for £180,000 (£225,000 with fees), below its £200,000 low estimate and a modest price point for a museum-quality work. It had been included in the artist’s traveling retrospective that began at the Museum of Modern Art
in 2012, and is one of 70 works from the famed series. It last sold at auction at Phillips de Pury & Company, New York, in November 2005 for $60,000.
“I don’t think there’s any progression in the market,” said Gorvy, who also noted that price is strictly governed by quality as buyers have become more discerning. “Anything not quite there, the prices are affected.”
All prices reported include the hammer price and the result with the tacked-on buyer’s premium, calculated at 25% of the hammer price up to and including £180,000, 20% of any amount above that and up to and including £2 million and 12.9% for any sum above that figure. Estimates do not reflect the buyer’s premium.
The evening sale contemporary action resumes at Philips on Thursday.