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Sotheby's New Auction Record in Europe Coincides with Maintenance Union Protest

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  • Sotheby's London, Sotheby's auction record Europe, Sotheby's union protest
July 2, 2015

Well, I guess that people from Sotheby’s had some mixed feelings about a record-breaking Contemporary Art Evening Auction. Yes, it did break a Sotheby’s record for the highest Contemporary art sale in Europe, and, without a doubt, they should be happy about that fact: Sotheby’s was way superior to Christie’s, both in Contemporary art and in Impressionist and Modern art auctions that took place in London in the last couple of weeks. However, this record auction at Sotheby’s missed the all-time European record for a Contemporary art sale for just $3.9 million – a record held by Christie’s. In spite of the fact that Contemporary Art Evening Auction was a Sotheby’s record sale in Europe, it failed to sell several top priced lots, which makes this result a tad bitter-sweet. Also, while inside of Sotheby’s auction house millions of dollars worth of art was being sold, outside of the building, the maintenance workers union was protesting against alleged diminishing their working conditions.

The Union Protest Outside of Sotheby’s – What Was it All About?

Apparently, and according to the grassroots trade union United Voices of the World (UVW) Facebook status, after cleaners and porters successfully fought a battle for a new collective agreement, that included the London Living Wage and contractual sick pay at Sotheby’s, the big auction house fired the cleaning company, and hired another contractor, which refused to implement the conditions that were agreed. In response to that, around a hundred people demonstrated on Bond Street in front of Sotheby’s, just when art collectors and bidders were arriving  at the Contemporary Art Evening Auction. Also, according to the UVW’s most recent update, all cleaners and porters that had been protesting on July 1 outside of Sotheby’s, were fired by the London’s auction house and the new contractor.

  • Sotheby's London, Sotheby's auction record Europe, Sotheby's union protest

European Record for a Contemporary Art Auction at Sotheby's

Instead of Francis Bacon’s Study for Pope I, that was projected as the highest priced lot prior to the auction, Andy Warhol’s One Dollar Bill (Silver Certificate) stole the show and changed owners for almost $29 million, while Study for Pope I didn’t receive any bid and remained unsold. There were 8 Warhol’s works with a dollar motif, and 6 were sold. Following Christie’s Contemporary evening art sale, where Gerhard Richter had a terrible night, as none of his four works weren’t sold, this time his A B, Brick Tower went for almost $20 million – Artnet reminded that this painting was sold for just $34,000 back in 2001. Two Bacon’s self-portraits (Self-Portrait and Three Studies For Self-Portrait) went for over $20 million each, and another Warhol’s dollar-based work (Dollar Signs) was sold for almost $10 million.

However, Warhol’s Front And Back Dollar Bills (estimated at $18.7 – $28.1 million) and Two Dollar Bills (Back) (40 Two Dollar Bills In Green) ($7.8 – $10.9 million) were among the highest priced lots of the auction, and weren’t sold. This goes also for Peter Doig’s Pelican ($9.4 – $12.5 million) and Gerhard Richter’s Stadtbild M 6 ($3.1 – $6.2 million), that played significant roles in spoiling Sotheby’s big night.

Sotheby's London, Sotheby's auction record Europe, Sotheby's union protest
Francis Bacon – Three Studies For Self-portrait, 1980 (Lot 10). Estimated at $15,617,700 – $23,426;550, sold for $20,303,010.
Sotheby's London, Sotheby's auction record Europe, Sotheby's union protest
Lucian Freud – Four Eggs On A Plate, 2002 (Lot 7). Estimated at $156,177 – $234,266, sold for $1,280,651. This was the most successful lot of the auction, with +446.7 percent difference between hammer price and high estimate.
Sotheby's London, Sotheby's auction record Europe, Sotheby's union protest
Left: Francis Bacon – Self-portrait, 1975 (Lot 9). Estimated at $15,617,700 – $23,426,550, sold for $21,083,895. / Right: Gerhard Richter – A B, Brick Tower, 1987 (Lot 17). Estimated at $18,741,240 – $24.988.320, sold for $19,522,125. Fourth biggest hammer price of the auction.
Sotheby's London, Sotheby's auction record Europe, Sotheby's union protest
Andy Warhol – One Dollar Bill (Silver Certificate), 1962 (Lot 24). Estimated at $20,303,010 – $28,111,860, sold over high estimate, for $28,892,745. This lot had the highest hammer price of the auction.
  • Sotheby's London, Sotheby's auction record Europe, Sotheby's union protest

Results of Contemporary Art Evening Auction at Sotheby's

Out of 59 lots auctioned at Contemporary Art Evening Auction at Sotheby’s London 49 were sold (83.1 percent) for $176.4 million, or with the average hammer price of just under $3.6 million. Nineteen lots, or 38.8 percent were sold over high estimate, another 21 in range of estimate values (42.8 percent), and nine lots were sold under low estimate (18.4 percent). Bellow you’ll find two tables with detailed information on every lot that was auctioned in London on July 1, at a historic Sotheby’s auction.

Total number of lots:59
Number of sold lots:49
Sold lots [%]:83.1
Total [$]:176.370.689
Number of sold lots over high estimate:19
Over high estimate (Total) [%]:32.2
Over high estimate (Sold) [%]:38.8
Number of sold lots in range of estimated values:21
In range of estimated values (Sold) [%]:42.8
Number of sold lots under low estimate:9
Under low estimate (Sold) [%]:18.4
Results were under estimate spread of [%]:30
Max Hammer [$]:28.892.745
Average Hammer [$]:3.599.402
Median Hammer [$]:1.280.651
Median Hammer Average Hammer Difference [%]:-64.4
Lot No.Artist NameArtwork NameLow Estimate $High Estimate $Hammer Price $Hammer High Estimate Difference [%]Hammer Low Estimate Difference [%]
1On KawaraOct. 14, 1981390.443546.620655.9432068
2Andy WarholFlowers937.0621.249.4161.874.12450100
3Christopher WoolUntitled (S127)2.030.3012.811.1862.967.3635.646.2
4Jean-Michel BasquiatOrange Sports Figure7.808.85010.932.3907.652.673-30-2
5David HockneyArranged Felled Trees2.342.6553.123.5404.529.1334593.3
6Frank AuerbachHead Of Gerda Boehm390.443546.6202.889.275428.6640
7Lucian FreudFour Eggs On A Plate156.177234.2661.280.651446.7720
8R. B. KitajWaiting156.177234.266406.06073.3160
9Francis BaconSelf-Portrait15.617.70023.426.55021.083.895-1035
10Francis BaconThree Studies For Self-Portrait15.617.70023.426.55020.303.010-13.330
11Yves KleinUntitled Blue Monochrome, (Ikb 239)6.247.0809.370.6207.496.496-2020
12Pierre SoulagesPeinture 81 X 60 Cm, 16 Octobre 19561.249.4161.874.1241.249.416-33.30
13Cy TwomblySee Naples + Die546.620702.797Not SoldNot SoldNot Sold
14Francis BaconStudy For A Pope I39.044.25054.661.950Not SoldNot SoldNot Sold
15Lucio FontanaConcetto Spaziale, Attese6.247.0807.808.8505.934.726-24-5
16Paolo ScheggiSenza Titolo (Intersuperficie Curva Rossa)624.708937.062796.503-1527.5
17Gerhard RichterA B, Brick Tower18.741.24024.988.32019.522.125-21.94.2
18Gerhard RichterPortrait Schmela4.685.3106.247.0804.372.956-30-6.7
19Cy TwomblyVirgil1.874.1242.811.1862.030.301-27.88.3
20Gerhard RichterStadtbild M 63.123.5406.247.080Not SoldNot SoldNot Sold
21Domenico GnoliScarpa Vista Da Dietro3.123.5404.685.310Not SoldNot SoldNot Sold
22Andy WarholDollar Sign312.354468.531655.94340110
23Andy WarholDollar Sign6.247.0809.370.6206.325.169-32.51.3
24Andy WarholOne Dollar Bill (Silver Certificate)20.303.01028.111.86028.892.7452.842.3
25Andy WarholDollar Signs7.027.96510.151.5059.448.709-6.934.4
26Andy WarholFront And Back Dollar Bills18.741.24028.111.860Not SoldNot SoldNot Sold
27Andy WarholTwo Dollar Bills (Back) (40 Two Dollar Bills In Green)7.808.85010.932.390Not SoldNot SoldNot Sold
28Andy WarholDollar Sign312.354468.531702.79750125
29Keith HaringUntitled390.443546.620718.41431.484
30Andy WarholDollar Bills187.412281.119156.177-44.4-16.7
31Tim Noble and Sue Webster$156.177234.266140.559-40-10
32Seth PriceNailed To The Wall (Lascaux Horse)156.177234.266171.795-26.710
33Rudolf StingelUntitled624.708937.062671.561-28.37.5
34Anish KapoorUntitled780.8851.093.239749.650-31.4-4
35Peter DoigPelican9.370.62012.494.160Not SoldNot SoldNot Sold
36David HockneyFelled Totem, September 8Th 20091.249.4161.874.124Not SoldNot SoldNot Sold
37Howard HodgkinChez Stamos780.8851.093.239827.738-24.36
38Paula RegoLooking Out780.8851.093.2391.249.41614.360
39Paula RegoThe Cadet And His Sister937.0621.249.4161.483.68218.858.3
40Lucian FreudAfter Breakfast1.561.7702.342.6551.483.682-36.7-5
41Frank AuerbachEuston Steps1.405.5931.874.124Not SoldNot SoldNot Sold
42Leon KossoffPortrait Of Chaim437.296546.620468.531-14.37.1
43Anselm KieferDat Rosa Mel Apibus624.708937.062702.797-2512.5
44Sigmar PolkeForêt Nationale1.249.4161.561.7701.358.740-138.8
45Keith HaringJulia624.708937.062624.708-33.30
46Sigmar PolkeUntitled624.708937.062718.414-23.315
47Jean-Michel BasquiatBrown Eggs937.0621.249.4161.530.53522.563.3
48Gabriel OrozcoBlue Dandelion312.354468.531265.501-43.3-15
49Andreas GurskyShanghai624.708937.0621.436.82853.3130
50John CurrinThe Christian1.561.7703.123.540Not SoldNot SoldNot Sold
51Piero ManzoniAchrome937.0621.249.4162.108.39068.8125
52Jean DubuffetEscalier Iii1.405.5931.874.1243.045.45262.5116.7
53Jean DubuffetLa Forêt234.266312.354218.648-30-6.7
54Alighiero BoettiMappa1.249.4161.874.1241.249.416-33.30
55Lucio FontanaConcetto Spaziale, Attese1.093.2391.405.5931.796.03627.864.3
56Günther UeckerWeisser Schrei937.0621.249.4161.280.6512.536.7
57Jia AiliSilent Echo312.354468.531312.354-33.30
58Berlinde de BruyckerePieta234.266390.443343.589-1246.7
59Sarah LucasNud 16187.412234.266187.412-200
TOTAL (Sold lots):137.701.263194.877.666176.370.689-9.528.1

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All images courtesy of Sotheby’s.