Highest price for any work of Contemporary art sold in London this week

Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Highest price for any work of Contemporary art sold in London this week

“Making money is art. And working is art. And good business is the best art” Andy Warhol. The dollar ($) is perhaps the most widely-recognised and potent symbol of our time, a shorthand for wealth, power and the American Dream. On 1 and 2 July 2015, Sotheby's offers a museum-quality private collection which explores how this iconic motif has provided such a rich source of inspiration for contemporary artists over the last sixty years.

Highest price for any work of Contemporary art sold in London this week

“Making money is art. And working is art. And good business is the best art” Andy Warhol. The dollar ($) is perhaps the most widely-recognised and potent symbol of our time, a shorthand for wealth, power and the American Dream. On 1 and 2 July 2015, Sotheby's offers a museum-quality private collection which explores how this iconic motif has provided such a rich source of inspiration for contemporary artists over the last sixty years. 

At the heart of the collection lies the most important group of Andy Warhol “dollar” paintings in private hands: era-defining masterpieces, led by the artist’s very first painting in the series: One Dollar Bill (Silver Certificate), 1962. Estimated at £13-18m, this is the only one of Warhol’s dollars to have been painted entirely by hand. 

American money is very well-designed, really. I like it better than any other kind of money.Andy Warhol

Warhol was obsessed with money, writing “Money is the MOMENT to me. Money is my MOOD”, and revisiting the theme throughout his career. The seven Warhols in “To the Bearer on Demand” chart the development of this definitive series, from the first hand-painted dollar of the early 1960s to the iconic large-scale silkscreens of the 1980s. Taken individually, these works are exceptional for their pedigree, provenance and rarity. As a collection, they offer an unrivalled insight into the germination and development of the foremost theme that drove the artist throughout his career. 

There are a number of apocryphal tales as to why Warhol first turned to money as a subject. In one, Eleanor Ward, the director of the artist’s first major gallery, claimed that she promised Warhol his first one-man show in exchange for a painting of her lucky two dollar bill. In another, the art dealer Muriel Laptow suggested to Warhol that he paint what he liked the best, to which he replied “money”. 

Andy Warhol, One Dollar Bill (Silver Certificate), 1962, est. £13-18m 

Not only did this picture set the foundations for the entire dollar bill series, it is the only painting from this body of work to have been painted entirely by hand. The composition is based on a photograph taken by Warhol’s close friend Edward Wallowitch. The deliberate cropping and consciously uneven detail pre-empt the silk-screening process that the artist would adopt soon after completing the painting. One Dollar Bill (Silver Certificate) is one of the defining works of the artist’s career – both in terms of subject matter and technique. It represents an artistic turning point from which one can trace the beginnings of American Pop Art, setting in motion the aesthetic conditions by which all of Warhol’s future work would follow. 

1st July 2015 at Sotheby’s London, Andy Warhol’s landmark first ‘dollar’ painting, hand-painted in 1962 sold for £20.9m / $ 32.8m / €29.4m. Pursued by four determined bidders, the work achieved well over the top estimate of £18m, and the highest price across all auction houses this week.

Further standout works:

Two major self-portraits by Francis Bacon, re-discovered in a European private collection earlier this year, sold for a combined total of £30m. Acquired soon after they were painted in 1975 and 1980 respectively, they had never been on public exhibition before this year:

Francis Bacon’s, Self-Portrait (1975) realised £15.3m / $24m / €21.5m (est. £10-15m).

Francis Bacon’s, Three Studies for Self-Portrait (1980) fetched £14.7m / $23.1m / €20.7m (est. £10-15m).

Gerhard Richter’s A B, Brick Tower (1987), created for the artist’s first major commercial exhibition in London, held at Anthony d’Offay Gallery in 1988, sold for £14.1m / $22.2m/ €20m (est. £12-16m). The last time this work appeared at auction in 2001 it realised $534,000 or £367,000.

British Art

British art accounted for over 30% of this evening’s sale total (£42m)

    •  Seven bidders drove Four Eggs on a Plate (2002), a treasured gift from Lucian Freud to the late Dowager Duchess of Devonshire to £989,000 / $1.6m / €1.4m, nearly 10 times the pre-sale low estimate (£100,000-150,000), equating to almost £250,000 per egg!

    • The auction record for Paula Rego was broken twice this evening when the sale of Looking Out (1997), for £965,000 / $1.5m / €1.4m, was swiftly followed by The Cadet and his sister which soared to £1.1m / $1.8m / €1.6m (est. £600,000-800,000).

    • Frank Auerbach’s early portrait of his cousin Gerda, Head of Gerda Boehm (1961), soared to £2.2m / $3.5m / €3.1m (est. £250,000-350,000) - a new auction record for any work on paper by the artist, and the second-highest price achieved for the artist at auction.

New Auction Records
    • For any work by Paula Rego: her record was broken twice this evening when the sale of Looking Out (1997) for £965,000 / $1.5m / €1.4m was swiftly followed by The Cadet and his sister which soared to £1.1m / $1.8m / €1.6m (est. £600,000-800,000).

    • For any work on paper by Frank Auerbach: Head of Gerda Boehm (1961) soared to £2.2m / $3.5m / €3.1m (est. £250,000-350,000). 

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Image of the Day

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Femme au béret orange et au col de fourrure (Marie‐Thérèse), executed 4 December 1937. Oil on canvas. 24⅛ x 18⅛ in (61.2 x 46.1 cm)

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Femme au béret orange et au col de fourrure (Marie‐Thérèse), executed 4 December 1937. Oil on canvas. 24⅛ x 18⅛ in (61.2 x 46.1 cm)

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