LONDON – June’s sale of Modern and Post-war British Art brought to a close a bumper season of Modern British Art at Sotheby’s. The year began with 1000 Ways of Seeing: The Private Collection of the late Stanley J. Seeger, featuring works by Peter Lanyon, Alan Davie and John Craxton, artists that the late collector knew well and supported throughout the course of their careers.
Late March brought the most impressive single-owner collection of works by one of Britain’s best-loved artists to appear at auction in recent years. LOWRY: The A. J. Thompson Collection yielded over £15 million, and the sale was led by Piccadilly Circus, London, which achieved £5.12 million.
The following month the inaugural Made In Britain sale combined the breadth of creativity in Britain across the disciplines of fine arts, prints, photographs, design and studio ceramics with strong results for works from Lucie Rie to Barbara Hepworth, and establishing new auction records for Christopher Le Brun, John Armstrong and for a multiple by Bridget Riley.
Edward Burra took centre stage in the June sale of Modern and Post-war British Art, alongside recognisable names such as L. S. Lowry – whose Station Approach, Manchester sold for £2.32 million – and Patrick Heron. Burra’s captivating Marriage à la Mode, included in his first solo show in 1929 and originally owned by Olivia Wyndham, a notable London socialite in the era of the Bright Young Things, sold for £818,500, the third highest price achieved by the artist at auction after Zoot Suits and The Common Stair, both sold by Sotheby’s as part of the 2011 sale of The Evill/Frost Collection.
The June sale spanned the history of Modern British Art, from early drawings by Augustus John to Anthony Gormley’s MEME CLIII, with auction record set for artists including including Reg Butler, Pauline Boty and Sir Jacob Epstein. Butler’s Woman Standing (1951–52) sold by The Museum of Modern Art, New York to benefit the acquisitions fund, achieved three times the lower estimate. With further strong prices were achieved for works by key 1960s British artists Patrick Caulfield and Anthony Caro, the sale brought to a close a season that demonstrated wide strong interest in Modern British Art, and the excitement it ignites in collectors across the globe.