Auctions Market United Kingdom

Photography proves its mettle at Christie’s, but painting holds top spots

Series by Sarah Lucas and Kippenberger set records for the artists, while Glenn Brown makes the highest price—again

Lucas’s self-portrait from 1997, Fighting Fire with Fire (6 Pack), fetched £290,500, more than double what was paid in 2001 when the work was bought for £135,750 (then a record for the artist at auction)

Photography showed its mettle at Christie’s contemporary evening sale on Friday night, with artist records for Josephine Meckseper and Sarah Lucas—the latter’s solo show at the Whitechapel Gallery (until 15 December) no doubt adding clout to the sale. Christie’s owner François Pinault was rumoured to be the seller of Lucas’s six-part self-portrait from 1997, which fetched £290,500, more than double what was paid in 2001 when the work was bought for £135,750 (then a record for the artist at auction). “Sarah Lucas is having a moment. She's reinventing herself as an outsider Modernist queen; half punk, half Hepworth,” said Darren Flook, the co-founder of the Independent art fair.

Despite falling short of its low pre-sale estimate of £120,000, Martin Kippenberger’s 85-part photographic piece, Psychobuildings, 1988, became the most expensive photograph by the artist when it sold for £110,500. The only video work on offer in the week’s evening sales also did well—Ryan Trecartin’s A Family Finds Entertainment, 2004, sold for an artist record of £37,500 (est £20,000-£30,000). The video is an edition of eight, one of which is in the Whitney Museum of Modern Art.

Another piece in the collection of several museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Kunsthaus Zürich, was Thomas Struth’s photograph, San Zaccaria, Venice, 1995, which soared above its upper estimate of £200,000, going for £698,500. Meanwhile, Jeff Wall’s 1991 picture, The Crooked Path, almost doubled its low pre-sale estimate, selling for £482,500. “Photography is a medium that is still accessible,” said Francis Outred, the head of post-war and contemporary art for Christie’s Europe. “You can pick up a 20th-century masterpiece for a relatively affordable sum.”

The top prices, meanwhile, were reserved for the paintings on the block, which mostly fell within estimate. Glenn Brown’s aquamarine spacescape from 1998, Böcklin's Tomb (copied from 'Floating Circles' 1981 by Chris Floss), fetched £2.3m (est £2m-£3m), while Mark Tansey’s painting, The Raw and the Framed, 1995—executed in a similarly blue palette—went to the same anonymous buyer for £1.6m (est £1.4m-£1.8m). A collaboration between Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol from the collection of the film director Oliver Stone made £1.5m against an estimate of between £1.3m and £1.8m, while a 1984 painting by Basquiat sold for £1.8m, equalling its upper estimate of £1.8m.

Two other works on canvas sailed above estimate to also hit the £1.8m mark: Kippenberger's Down with the Bourgeoisie, 1983 (est £900,000-£1.2m), and Peter Doig's Red Canoe, 2000 (est £800,000-£1.2m).

The grand total on the night was £27.8m (est £20.3m-£29.2m), up from last year’s evening sale, which made £23m. The sell-through rate was a robust 91% by lot and 95% by value.

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