Sotheby’s London capped off its most internationally patronized contemporary art sale in history last night with a total of $116.8 million coming in from 38 countries.
The artworks, however, tended to come from the usual crop of Western nations, particularly Germany, as has been the trend recently. In the evening sale, twin fiery Abstraktes Bild paintings by Gerhard Richter soared to become two of the top 10 lots, each fetching around $3.6 million. Düsseldorf photographer Andreas Gursky took the ninth spot with a $3.3 million shot of the swarming stockbroker pit of the Chicago Board of Trade. Martin Kippenberger and Sigmar Polke also scored high numbers with fragmented figurative paintings for $2.5 million and $2.4 million, respectively.
Meanwhile, Richter commanded the highest price at Sotheby's day sale with yet another an Abstraktes Bild going for $1.6 million, while German expressionist painter Georg Baselitz sold an abstract “still life” for $638,000. Finally, a radiant Josef Albers Homage to the Square study in shades of goldenrod sold for $545,000.
But homegrown British favorites still reigned supreme. Francis Bacon had the top lot of the two-day event with his triptych of model Isabel Rawthorne going for $17.3 million to Alex Corcoran of London’s Lefevre Gallery. David Hockney’s jewel-toned landscape of rolling East Yorkshire hills went for $5.3 million, while Scottish-born painter Peter Doig scored the day sale's second-highest tally with an eerie painting of an apartment complex in the woods for $1 million.
Among the few non-European names present were Chinese-born star Zao Wou-Ki, whose delicate sepia-toned oil painting surpassed its high estimate at $1.5 million. Zao, it might be noted, has lived in France for more than 60 years and was once the cultural ambassador between former French President Jacques Chirac and Communist leader Deng Xiaoping. Japanese Pop megastar Takashi Murakami, meanwhile, topped out at the high-end of his presale estimate with a skull-and-flower painting going for $1.2 million.