Masterpieces by Dubuffet and Basquiat Led Christie’s Solid £45m Contemporary Art Evening Auction

Christie’s pulled off a strong Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale in London totalling £45m. The sale achieved a satisfactory sell-through rate of 94% by lot, with only two pieces of all 34 lots failing to sell.

Leading the evening was Jean Dubuffet’s Cérémonie (1961) from the artist’s celebrated ‘Paris Circus’ series. It was hammered down for £7.5m, within its estimated region between £7m-10m. It was sold for £8.7m after premium.

It was made just a few months after the artist's return to Paris after six years in the countryside. Alive with kaleidoscopic texture and colour, it captures the newfound joie de vivre that swept the French capital during the early 1960s.

The second top lot of the sale was Basquiat’s Sabado por la Noche (Saturday Night) (1984).The painting was hammered down at £7.2m, below its low estimate of £7.5m, and sold for £8.37m.

It was created in an important period of Basquiat's career as he had moved into a loft space owned by Andy Warhol in August 1983. While he was working on collaborative works in silkscreen and paint with Warhol over the following two years, Basquiat brought greater material richness and thematic complexity into his own work. (See more about the painting: Basquiat’s ‘Griots’ Painting, Sabado por la Noche, to Lead Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale in London).

Francis Bacon’s 'Man at a Washbasin' realised the third highest price of the sale by selling for £5.1m (with premium). This haunting work from Bacon’s great ‘blue’ period depicts a nude male figure based on the artist’s lover at the time, Peter Lacy, suspended in a void of rich, midnight blue.

The sale also set several new artist records including one for Tschabalala Self, whose Out of Body (2015) was sold for £371,250, more than six times its high estimate, setting a new world record for the artist at auction.

Top three lots

Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985). Cérémonie (Ceremony)
Lot no.: 16
Painted in November 1961
Size: 164.7 x 220cm

  • Galerie Daniel Cordier, Paris.
  • Collection of P. Marinotti, Milan.
  • Acquavella Galleries, New York.
  • Private Collection, Paris.
  • Galerie Francoise Tournie, Paris.
  • Raymond Vuilliez, Lyon.
  • Ruth and Jack Wexler (acquired from the above in 1986) and thence by descent.
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2012.

Estimate: £7,000,000-10,000,000
Hammer price: £7,500,000
Price realised: £8,718,750

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988). Sabado por la Noche (Saturday Night)
Lot no.: 6
Executed in: 1984
Size: 195.6 x 223.5cm

  • Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich / Mary Boone, New York.
  • Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris.
  • Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris.
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1993.

Estimate: £7,500,000-£11,000,000
Hammer price: £7,200,000
Price realised: £8,378,250

Francis Bacon (1909-1992). 'Man at a Washbasin'
Lot no.: 22
Painted circa 1954
Size: 152 x 116cm

  • Collection of the Artist.
  • Private Collection, UK (acquired from the above in 1992).
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2003.

Estimate: £5,000,000-7,000,000
Hammer price: £4,320,000
Price realised: £5,109,450

Auction results

Auction house: Christie’s London
Sale: Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction
Date: 25 June 2019
Lots offered: 34
Sold: 32
Unsold: 2
Sell-through rate: 94%
Sale total: £45,179,450