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Dadamaino gets the recognition she deserves at Sotheby’s Italian auction

Buyers from beyond Italy snap up the more expensive works

Sotheby’s marked the 15th anniversary of its dedicated 20th-century Italian auction with a sale total of £15.1m (including buyers’ premium), against a pre-sale estimate of £12.8m-£17.7m. Since its first sale in 1999, which totalled £5.2m, there is no doubt that the market for such work has grown and developed over the years, drawing in an increasingly international crowd; while there were many Italian clients in the room, a large proportion of the lots sold to non-Italian buyers, who bought the more expensive work on offer.

The sale was dominated by big names—out of 46 lots (Marino Marini’s bronze sculpture, Cavallo, 1952 was withdrawn at the last minute), nine were by Lucio Fontana, the poster boy for post-war Italian art. At the lower end of the scale, Fontana’s enameled ceramic piece, Crocifissione, around 1954, sold for £135,000, above its upper estimate of £70,000, while his bright yellow Concetto Spaziale, 1960, estimated at £1m to £1.4m and featured on the front of the catalogue, went for £1.6m. A work by Enrico Castellani, another Italian auction regular, titled Superficie Gialla, Ricomposizione, 1972, sold for £459,000, more than double the upper estimate, demonstrating that the demand for these blue-chip, household names is strong.

It was a disappointing night, however, for Giorgio Morandi, whose Natura Morta, 1948, estimated at £400,000 to £600,000, failed to find a buyer, while a similar work, Natura Morta, 1952, estimated at £700,000-£900,000, sold at what seemed to be its reserve hammer price of £650,000 (£783,000 with premium).

Meanwhile, Michelangelo Pistoletto’s large screenprint, Bionda Nuda, Orrizzontale, 1962-75, sold for £723,000 against a top estimate of £500,000. The work was subject to a heated bidding session between two buyers. Last month the artist won the Japan Art Association’s prestigious Praemium Imperiale Award.

It was also a good sale for a lesser known Italian woman artist, Dadamaino (1935-2004), whose black and white waterpaint on canvas, Volume, 1959, sold for £105,000 against a top estimate of £60,000, which is an auction record for the artist.

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