The auction features a select offering of outstanding masterworks by leading Post-War and Contemporary artists, including Francis Bacon, Gerhard Richter, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Alexander Calder, Mark Rothko and Lucio Fontana.
Headlining the sale is Three Studies for a Self-Portrait by Francis Bacon. The artist executed this oil on canvas, which belongs to a corpus of 11 triptych self-portraits in his standard 14 by 12” format, in his eighth decade, at the age of 71. This was in 1980, nine years following the suicide of his closest companion, George Dyer. The three self-portraits collectively embody among the most elegiac of his works in this intimate, commemorative triptych format. The work counts among the ten executed following Dyer’s death, the profound trauma of which precipitated Bacon’s searing self-analyses in the remaining years of his life.
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (Pecho/Oreja), is one of the artist’s most arresting and accomplished works. Though Basquiat executed the work between 1982 and 1983 when he was only 22 years old, it signals the very apex of his powers of artistic expression. Born to Puerto Rican and Haitian parents and brought up in Brooklyn, New York, Basquiat drew from his ancestral background and racial identity to forge a body of work acutely conscious of its place in an almost exclusively white Western art history. In this present work, the overlapping themes of black hero worship, anatomy, graffiti, art history and death coalesce to form a cohesive composition rich in cultural commentary and autobiographical narrative.
Also on offer, following the record set for the work of any living artist at Sotheby’s London in October 2012 - by a Gerhard Richter abstract painting – will be another of the artist’s magnificent works, Abstraktes Bild (769-1). The painting is one of the most vivid and optically commanding works from Richter’s astounding opus of abstraction. Also by Gerhard Richter is Wolke (Cloud), an oil on canvas dated 1976 from a distinguished private collection. This work is a sublime example of the artist’s output of photorealist works and stands among the most beautiful and stunning of Richter’s career.
Also of great interest are impressive works by Tom Wesselmann, Alexander Calder and Josef Albers from an extraordinary Private Swedish Collection of Modern and Contemporary artworks, which was assembled from the 1960s onwards.
The 12 February London Contemporary Art Evening Auction brought the strong total of £74,364,200/ $116,357,664/ €86,321,943, within pre-sale expectations (estimate: £61.2-84.5 million), representing Sotheby’s second-highest total for a February Sale of Contemporary Art in London.
The top lot of the auction was Francis Bacon’s 1980 oil on canvas triptych masterwork Three Studies for a Self-Portrait, which sold for £13,761,250 / $21,532,228 / €15,974,055 against an estimate of £10-15 million. Executed in the artist’s eighth decade at the age of 71 it belongs to a corpus of 11 triptych self-portraits in Bacon’s standard 14by12 inch format. The work was acquired by a German collector Jürgen Hall who will generously loan the work to a major international institution.