Christie's London Breaks Record with £137m Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Christie's London pulled off a record-breaking contemporary art evening sale totalling £137m, the highest ever for a London Post-War sale. With offerings of artworks by highly sought-after artists like Andy Warhol, Basquiat, Francis Bacon, the sale was 92 percent sold by lot with only five of all 65 lots offered went unsold. 

The hammer total £117,725,000 slightly exceeded the low estimate of £113,370,000, a fair result that was high enough to meet the expectation, though far from its high estimate of £160,840,000.

The top lot of the night was Andy Warhol's Six Self Portraits, featured on the catalogue's cover. Completed just months before the artist’s sudden death in 1987, the masterpiece was first shown at Anthony d’Offay’s London gallery in the summer of 1986.

Started at £14m, the bidding went steadily up to £19.8m after eighteen bid increments. Only two bidders stayed in the fierce bidding battle at the point. The auctioneer asked for an incremental jump by suggesting £20m for the following bid but the astute buyer knew how to play the game with right tactics, which saved him £100,000 as the gavel was brought down at £19.9m. 

Peter Doig's Charley's Space, the first of the celebrated ‘snow’ paintings that would come to define the artist’s output of the 1990s, also saw intense bidding from buyers. The painting was hammered down for £9.5m, surpassing its estimate between £6m - 8m.

Basquiat is the highest-grossing American artist

Multiflavors, a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat in 1982, the year the artist rose to fame. The painting presents the artist’s signature crown set against a background of royal blue shot through with broad swathes of dripping black paint, words and symbols. It was hammered down for the second highest price of the night at £10.5m, just above its low estimate £10m.

Francis Bacon. Three Studies for a Portrait.

Jackson Pollock. Number 21, 1950.

Francis Bacon's Three Studies for a Portrait, the artist’s penultimate ode to his great female muse Henrietta Moraes, was knocked down for £9m. Whereas Jackson Pollock's Number 21, an important work from the peak of Jackson Pollock’s iconic ‘drip period’, was hammered down for £8.1m, below its low estimate £10m.

Christie's London kicked off post-war and contemporary art auctions with this £137m sale, recording a 43 percent increase on 2017.

Top three lots

Andy Warhol. Six Self Portraits.

Lot no.: 9
Size: 56 x 56cm (each)

  • Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London.
  • Private Collection, London (acquired from the above in 1986).
  • Anon. sale, Sotheby’s New York, 14 May 2014, lot 23.
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.

Estimate Upon Request
Hammer price: £19,900,000
Price realized: £22,621,250

Jean-Michel Basquiat. Multiflavors.

Lot no.: 8
Size: 153.7 x 154.5cm

  • Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich.
  • Jan Eric Lowenadler, Stockholm.
  • Anon. sale, Sotheby’s New York, 5 May 1987, lot 262.
  • Private Collection.
  • Anon. sale, Catherine Charbonneaux Paris, 29 October 1990, lot 127.
  • Private Collection, France (acquired at the above sale).
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner.

Estimate: £10,000,000 - 15,000,000
Hammer price: £10,500,000
Price realized: £12,046,250

Peter Doig. Charley's Space.

Lot no.: 27
Size: 183 x 127cm

  • The Artist.
  • The Whitechapel Auction, Sotheby's London, 13 October 2006, lot 38 (donated by the artist).
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.

Estimate: £6,000,000 - 8,000,000
Hammer price: £9,500,000
Price realized: £10,921,250


Auction Summary

Auction house: Christie's London
Sale: Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction
Auction date: 2018/3/6
Lots offered: 65
Sold: 60
Unsold: 5
Sold by lot: 92%
Sale total: £137,989,750