Have investors found their haven in Art?
Despite economic stagnation in the U.S. or the Eurozone’s sovereign debt crisis this week has been extremely important one for the UK art market, with top London auction houses majority of which are hosting contemporary art sales to coincide with long awaiting Frieze week. In recent years investors have had plenty of sleepless nights, prompting many to put money into property or gold. In times when government bonds are no longer considered safe, investors should deinitely look for alternatives in more creative havens of Art.
This year Sotheby’s Evening Sale in Contemporary Art saw a sale value, which totalled £17,809,000. This is the third-highest recorded total for Contemporary Art sales. Leon Kossof, with his “A Street in Willesden’ was set as a new artist record selling for £690, 850 which was almost double its estimate. The top-selling piece at the Sotheby’s sale this year was Lucien Freud’s ‘Boy’s Head’ of 1952. An anonymous bidder bought this “indisputable masterpiece” of Freud’s neighbour for £3,177,250, which included the buyer’s premium.
Lucian Freud, a grandson of the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud was arguably one of the UK’s most highly regarded and respected artists who died in July this year aged 88. His oil on canvas transmits a truly remarkable psychological intensity that is exemplary of the painter’s sensational powers of observation. The work which measures just 21.6cm by 15.9cm failed to meet its pre-sale estimates of up to £4m .
In 1943 Freud moved to a flat by the Regent’s Canal in Delamere Terrace, Paddington. He described the areas as “…extreme and I was conscious of this. A completely unresidential area with violent neighbours. There was a sort of anarchic element of no one working for anyone…”. Among his neighbours were young brothers Charlie and Billy Lumley, with whom the painter forged a close friendship.
London’s Phillips de Pury held two sales of contemporary art this week, bringing in astonishing combined sale total of £11,882,810 featuring works by Gerhard Richter, Jeff Koons and Ai Weiwei. Koons’s ‘Seal Walrus Trashcans’ was the highest-selling lot in Wednesday’s evening sale, comfortably reaching its £2 million estimate. Meanwhile, the top-selling piece in the day sale was George Condo’s ‘Ballet Gris’ of 1987, which sold for £265,250, well in excess of its £120,000 estimate.
Jeff Koons – the multimillionaire king of kitsch, sultan of superficial and boss of the banal unveiled his first solo show in the UK in 2009. Inspired by Popeye, his fabulously exuberant painted aluminium casts of inflatable toys – monkeys, walrus, lobsters and caterpillar beach floats are intertwined with everyday objects like chairs and ladders. Some might think that Koons uses Kitsch as irony – but that’s not his intention: he cleverly overcome the anti-Kitsch paradigm of avant-garde by his contemporary works of art which were made of (fake) Kitsch objects. At Art Basel he said he does this ‘because he does not believe in judgments’. Koon’s playful art is deeply rooted within history of art where Salvador Dali – one of his greatest idols is frequently quoted his his work.
On the other hand Christie’s Contemporary and Post-War Art Evening Auction on 14th October brought in an incredible total of £38,070,350, far exceeding total of either of the other major London auction houses. Christie’s top two highest sales were both from a German Artist Gerhard Richter: first ‘Kerze’ of 1982, was sold for £10,457,250 and the second ‘Abstraktes Bild’ of 1992 found it’s owner for £3,625,250. Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North – a life-size maquette reached £3,401,250, far exceeding its estimate of £2m. “It’s just as absurd as the banking crisis,” Richter said at the Tate press preview. “It’s impossible to understand, and it’s daft.
Richter’s “Kerze” beats its hammer estimate of 6 – 9 million pounds, ultimately making it the most valuable work at auction this week. It was at the opening of the Richter retrospective at Tate Modern on 6th Oct where the owner of this artwork from Scandinavia had been encouraged to sell. The estimate reflected the price of 8 million pounds paid for another of these photo-based “memento mori” subjects at Sotheby’s in 2008. Three telephone bidders, contested the work with the winner represented by Christie’s European head of contemporary art – Francis Outred,
As the contemporary art market has been riddled with uncertainty since last Spring, let’s hope all of this points to a growth in confidence in the art.