Apart from the breakout bidding on the Wols and the scrum over the Oehlen self-portrait, the sale’s success was riding mostly on pre-arranged guarantees—in addition to those listed in the catalogue, a slew more that were secured post-printing were announced at the auction’s start. It’s unclear whether Sotheby’s aggressive reliance on irrevocable bids will continue in the era of private ownership. Also up in the air is the status of CEO Tad Smith, and whether or not he will stay on after the transition. On Wednesday night he was spotted in his normal perch in the salesroom.
The post-war and contemporary art sales in London continue Thursday with the day sale at Sotheby’s and the 20th century and contemporary art evening sale at Phillips.