This Tuesday, Christie’s London hosted a short, hour-long auction for their Modern British and Irish evening sale. It was a very strong day for Christie’s, with nearly all the lots either hitting or exceeding their estimates. Of the thirty-one lots offered, only six sold below estimate, were bought in, or were withdrawn. (w/p = with the buyer’s premium) The highlights include Bridget Riley’s 1974 acrylic-on-canvas painting entitled Gala, which reached the top spot with a £3.6M/$4.75M hammer price (or £4.36M/$5.76M w/p). Throughout the sale, the five-foot by five-foot painting was prominently placed in the auction room, right behind the phone desk. It’s a giant, dazzling optical illusion. The pattern makes it seem like a rippling sheet constantly moving, making one dizzy at times. The bidding dragged on for maybe a little too long, as an indecisive phone bidder kept everyone waiting for two or three extra minutes before accepting defeat and letting it go to another. The auctioneer closed the next lot in about thirty seconds, probably to compensate for the delay.
The other top spots belonged to Sir John Lavery’s Croquet Party, which went for £2.4M/$3.17M (or £2.9M/$3.86M w/p), as well as The Sea by Laurence Stephen Lowry, which fetched £2.25M/$2.97M million (or £2.74M/$3.6M). While the Lowry is certainly striking, I was more excited to see the artist’s painting The Village Street. While it’s a smaller work, it’s much more dynamic and colorful, deserving of the £1.6M/$2.1M it reached (or £1.96M/$2.6M w/p), especially compared to The Sea’s relatively dull, monochrome waves. One of the only surprises happened right before The Sea came across the block. Despite it being on the smaller side, Sir William Nicholson’s oil-on-canvas work Miss Simpson’s Boots seemed to catch several buyers’ attention. It quickly shot past its £500K high estimate assigned by Christie’s specialists, reaching £1.45M/$1.9M (or £1,.78M/$2.35M w/p) within a few minutes.
The thirty lots offered (one was withdrawn) brought in £20.7M/$27.3M, which fell within Christie’s total estimate between £14.95 million to £21.74 million.