Sotheby’s hosted a British Art evening sale to close out June, though it curiously took place in the afternoon. The sale featured Modern and Contemporary works; just 38 lots, though 4 seem to have been withdrawn before the start, so we’ll call it 34.
Taking the top spot of the “evening” was Lucian Freud’s David Hockney, a portrait of the acclaimed artist also his longtime friend. They met back in 1962, though this work was completed in 2002 – Hockney sat for more than 100 hours for the painting, and it was included in Freud’s retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery in 2012. Expected to bring £8-12M ($11.04-16.56M), the work hammered for £13.1M ($18.08M, or £14.9M/$20.56 with premium). That figure ranks it as the sixth most expensive work by the artist at auction; and the only work to break 8 figures in the sale.
The top three was completed with two works by Peter Doig. Blue Mountain happened to be one of the few that hammered below estimate in the sale; £4.8M ($6.62M) on a £5-7M ($6.9-9.6M) estimate, though once you add in the premium that bumps the price to £5.3 ($7.3M). And Bomb Island hammered at £3.9M ($5.38M and £4.3M/$5.9M with premium), on a £3-5M ($4.14-6.9M estimate). Both works have been in private collections since the 90s, meaning this is the first time either has appeared at auction.
A few lots saw nice performances relative to the expectations… those results included works by Hockney (£410K hammer on a £150-200K estimate), Hurvin Anderson (£200K hammer on a £40-60K estimate), and Dame Magdalene Odundo (£300K hammer on a £60-90K estimate). Conversely, there were 6 lots that went below their estimate along with 4 that failed to find buyers. Works by Sir John Lavery and Euan Uglow were the most significant underperformers, hammering 20% below estimate; failed lots included works by Ben Nicholson, Bridget Riley, Henry Moore, and Peter Lanyon – none of which I’d consider major lots in the sale.
When the session closed, the total take was £41.3M hammer or £47.9M with premiums. As I mentioned earlier, 4 works were withdrawn and another 4 went unsold; that left a sell through rate of 88.2% (30/34) – a respectable figure. They also saw 11 works go above estimate, and 13 within their expected range, yielding an estimate accuracy rate of 41%!