visitor to the London salesrooms (Ab-Ex works are usually offered in New York), ’s
dripped and spattered enamel and aluminum paint-on-masonite, Number 21, 1950
, squeaked by with a telephone bid of £8.1 million, or £9.3 million with fees, a couple million pounds short of its low estimate of £10 million. Modestly scaled at 22 1/4 by 22 1/4 inches, the work was first exhibited in the artist’s solo show at the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1950. Remarkably, of the 32 Pollocks exhibited at the Parsons exhibition, only one, Lavender Mist
(1950), sold—to Alfonso Ossorio, a wealthy artist and close friend of Pollock, according to the catalogue entry.
In sharp contrast to Pollock’s lusciously wild abstraction, ’s
shimmering and photo-realist generated Venedig (Insel) (Venice (Island))
from 1985 sold for £3.7 million, or £4.3 million with fees, barely scraping its low estimate of £4 million.
Of the few awkward glitches in the sale, ’s
frightfully ghoulish composition, Study for “The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute”
(2011), depicting the Nazi war criminal Doctor Josef Mengele, initially went unsold at £380,000, just short of its low estimate of £400,000.
Later in the sale, auctioneer and Christie’s Global President Jussi Plykkänen, re-offered the lot, a first for a Christie’s evening sale, according to the house, and it sold to an anonymous telephone bidder for £400,000, or £488,750 with premiums. Christie’s said the ultimate buyer had lost the phone connection during the first round of bidding and pleaded for it to be re-offered.
On the artist-record front, Mark Bradford’s richly layered, large-scale multi-media collage on canvas, Bear running from the Shotgun (2014), sold to Abigail Asher of New York and Los Angeles-based Guggenheim Asher Associates, Inc. for £3.2 million (£3.8 million including buyer’s premium), surpassing its high estimate of £2.8 million. The underbidder for the 84-by-108-inch work was Melanie Clore of London’s Clore Wyndham Fine Art.
“We’re very excited, because it’s going to a collection where the new owner has a great social justice conscience, just like the artist,” said Asher as she raced out of the salesroom.
All prices reported include the hammer price (first) as well as the price including buyer premium fees (BP), which Christie’s calculates at 25 percent of the hammer price up to and including £175,000, 20 percent of that part of the hammer price over £175,000 and up to and including £3 million and 12.5 percent for anything above that.
The evening contemporary action resumes on Wednesday at Sotheby’s.