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Christie's auction tops off good week for Italian art in London

Records set for work by lesser known artists

Christie's Italian sale

It was a successful evening at Christie's London yesterday, 18 October, as the auction house set a new sales record for 20th century Italian art—£26.8m—against a pre-sale estimate of £15.6m-£22m. While work by artists such as Fontana and Burri were as sought after as ever, enthusiastic bidders helped Christie's set four new auction records for relatively less well-known Italian artists.

Out of the 53 works on offer, ten were by Lucio Fontana and all of them sold, eight of which above estimate. A white Concetto Spaziale, Attesa, 1967, went for £2m, against an estimate of £1.2m-£1.6m, and another white Concetto Spaziale, Attese, 1960, sold for £1.3m, against an estimate of £500,000-£800,000, proving that his white canvases can sell just as well as his highly desired works in red. Meanwhile, the star lots of the auction, Alberto Burri's Rosso Plastica, 1968, and Sacco, 1953, sold for £1.2m and £3m respectively. It was also a good night for Enrico Castellani, whose Superficie Bianca, 1998, sold for £441,000, above its upper estimate of £250,000.

It appears that the high demand (and prices) for blue-chip post-war Italian art, which has been aided by a surge in foreign interest over the past years, mainly American, has created a space in the market for lesser-known Italian artists—the four auction records set last night were for works by Marina Apollonio, Paolo Scheggi, Mario Schifano and Pino Pascali.

The pace was set from the start of the auction, when the first lot, Marina Apollonio's Dinamica Circolare 6ZNN, sold for £40,000. The most electric sale of the night, however, was Paolo Scheggi's Intersuperficie nera, 1965, estimated between £20,000 and £30,000. A fierce bidding war drove the work up to £219,000, against the artist's previous record of E58,000 (£49,000) for Intersuperficie curva bianca, 1969, at Christie's London in 2003, drawing a round of applause from the room. With some strong sales of work by many of the same artists at Frieze Masters, it has been a good week for Italian art in London.

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