T he Contemporary Art Evening Auction brought art collectors together at Sotheby's London saleroom to bid on some of the 20th century's most important paintings. Foremost among them was Jean-Michel Basquiat's late work Apex, which sold for £8,227,950. Painted just two years before his death, it was exhibited between 2003–2012 at Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein.
Closely following behind Basquiat, Gerhard Richter’s brilliant 2009 work Abstraktes Bild, which sold for £6,918,100, is a landmark example of conceptual and technical mastery from the artist’s four-decade aesthetic investigation into abstraction.
Roy Lichtenstein's iconic style proved popular again as his work Vicki! I -- I Thought I Heard Your Voice!, painted in 1964 at the height of his career, sold for £5,836,050. Born from Lichtenstein’s acclaimed body of Girls paintings, other works from this series are held in museums worldwide from Tate in London to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Jenny Saville's monumental work, Juncture, sold for £5,442,200. Painted in 1994, between her 1992 degree show and the pinnacle of the YBA phenomenon at the 1997 exhibition Sensation, Juncture is among the most striking and significant of her 1990s works.
Lucian Freud's intimate painting, Head of a Boy, which sold for £5,779,100, was painted when the artist was just 34, placing it among the exceptionally rare collection of his works from the 1950s. It's a portrait of the late Irish art collector the Hon. Garech Browne, a cousin of Freud's first wife. Commenting on Freud's visits to his family's Irish estate, which often bustled with artists and musicians, Browne said “perhaps the person from whom I learned most was Lucian Freud”.
The sale was notable for the number of female artists represented, with 13 works by artists including Jenny Saville, Rebecca Warren, Cindy Sherman, Tracey Emin, Louise Bourgeois, Agnes Martin, Marlene Dumas and Bridget Riley featured, achieving a combined total of £17.6 million.
Also of note were works by Martin Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen, two artists who met in the late 1970s and spent two decades painting, travelling and playing in punk bands together. Exponents of 'bad' painting, their rebellious approach changed the course of 20th century art discourse. Their works achieved a combined total of £5.9 million.
Finally, Adrian Ghenie's magnificent painting, a response to Duchamp's announcement of the death of painting, Duchamp's Funeral I, sold for £4,298,400.
The sale total for the Contemporary Art Evening Auction was £93,295,300.