Twombly’s Untitled Hammered Down at £5.55m at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction

Sotheby’s contemporary art evening auction took place in London last night. The highest-price lot was, as expected, Cy Twombly’s Untitled. The second and third most expensive lots fell to David Hockney’s 15 Canvas Study of the Grand Canyon and Philip Guston’s Odessa.

Cy Twombly (1928-2011)’s Untitled was set to fetch £5.5m-7.5m (US$7.1m-9.8m), the highest estimate at the sale. This freely-scribbled, calligraphic and graffiti-like work exemplifies the artist's signature style. The bidding started at £4.8m and paused at £5.1m given the bidding atmosphere was not as fervent as anticipated.

The auctioneer Oliver Barker invited bidders to offer higher bids for a few times. The bidding resumed but bidders seemed to be more prudent. After the price reached £5.3m, the bid increment was lowered from £100,000 to £50,000. The lot was hammered down at £5.55m after a two-minute bidding. It was sold for £6,402,500 (US$8,369,348) and became the most expensive lot at the sale.

The second top lot went to David Hockney’s 15 Canvas Study of the Grand Canyon, an oil on canvas consists of 15 parts. It captures the magnificence of the Grand Canyon, Arizona. Carrying an estimate of £3.8m-5m, the painting was offered a starting bid of £3.4m. The price soon rose to £4.8m and only then the bidding pace slowed down. After four bid increments, the painting was hammered down at £5.2m and sold for £6,008,750 (US$7,854,638) including buyer’s premium.

The third one was Odessa created by Philip Guston (1913 - 1980), a pre-eminent American painter best known for his abstract art. Carrying an estimate of £2.5m-3.5m, the painting was hammered down at £3.2m and was sold for £3,758,750 (US$4,913,438) including buyer's premium.

Two paintings from American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) also went on sale. The first one was Remote Commander, which was hammered down at £2.5m and sold for £2,971,250 (US$3,884,018). Another one was Bronze, hammered down at £4.7m during the auction. However, it ended up being unsold according to the official information. No specific reason was stated.


Top three lots (by results)

CY TWOMBLY (1928 – 2011)

Lot no.: 13
Size: 130.5 x 150.5 cm
Created in: 1962
Estimate: £5,500,000 - 7,500,000 (US$7,189,600 - 9,804,000)
Hammer Price: £5,550,000
Price realized: £6,402,500 (US$8,369,348)


Lot no.: 6
Size: 169 x 166.5 cm
Created in: 1998
Estimate: £3,800,000 - 5,000,000 (US$4,967,360 — 6,536,000)
Hammer Price: £5,200,000
Price realized: £6,008,750 (US$7,854,638)

PHILIP GUSTON (1913 - 1980)

Lot no.: 10
Size: 172.7 x 195.6 cm
Created in: 1977
Estimate: £2,500,000 - 3,500,000
Hammer Price: £3,200,000
Price realized: £3,758,750

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s works


Lot no.: 26
Size: 167.5 x 152.5 cm
Created in: 1984
Estimate: £2,600,000 - 3,200,000 (US$3,398,720 — 4,183,040)
Hammer Price: £2,500,000
Price realized: £2,971,250 (US$3,884,018)


Lot no.: 9
Size: 152.5 x 152.5 cm
Estimate: £5,000,000 - 7,000,000 (US$6,536,000 — 9,150,400)