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Oliver Barker fields bids at Sotheby’s Evening Sale of Contemporary Art, 28 June 2017. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

LONDON.- Sotheby’s Evening Auction of Contemporary Art in London this evening exceeded its pre-sale high estimate to total £62,325,750 / $79,783,193 / €70,403,354 – an increase of 20% (GBP) / 15% (USD) on the equivalent sale last year. 

· 95.1% sold by lot, this was the fifth consecutive Contemporary Art Evening Sale at Sotheby’s worldwide with a sell-through rate of over 90%. 

· An auction record was achieved for British artist Cecily Brown – for the second time this year. 

· 50% of lots sold for prices above their pre-sale high estimates. 

· 70% of the works had never previously been offered at auction. 

· The pre-sale estimates for the sale were £44.3-60.6m / $56.7-77.6m / €50-68.5m. 

Tonight’s total brings combined sales of Contemporary Art so far this season – including the 11 contemporary works sold in last week’s ‘Actual Size’ sale – to £68,751,000 / $87,884,791.* 

During the important summer art calendar in Europe, following Venice, Documenta and Basel, London is the final stop for collectors around the world. The June auctions are at the heart of the vibrant London art scene at this time of year, making for busy views, packed salerooms, and real competition for the art on offer, as we saw tonight.” - Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s Head of Contemporary Art, Europe. 

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Oliver Barker fields bids at Sotheby’s Evening Sale of Contemporary Art, 28 June 2017. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

STAR LOTS 
This evening’s sale was led by Jean-Michel Basquiat’s untitled work from 1983. Conceived in the style of a classical frieze, the triptych sold for an over-estimate £6,492,500 / $8,311,049 / €7,333,947 (est. £4-6 million). Never before offered at auction, the painting had been in the same collection for 20 years. This followed a string of strong prices for Basquiat at Sotheby’s London. In the past twelve months, all but one of the paintings offered by the artist have achieved prices above their high estimates. 

Recalling the sequential progression of a classical frieze in its grand scale and rich communicative power, Jean-Michel Basquiat's breathtaking Untitled demonstrates the artist’s creative reimagining of the weighted genre of history painting. Underscored by the nascent rhythms of hip-hop and the clatter of metropolitan life, this work gives cinematic form to the new creative epicentre emerging out of downtown New York.

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Lot 8. Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled, acrylic and oilstick on canvas, in 3 parts, overall: 244 by 191 cm. 96 by 71 1/4 in. Executed in 1983. Sold for £6,492,500 / $8,311,049 / €7,333,947 (est. £4-6 million). Photo: Sotheby's.

Andy Warhol’s Self-Portrait, 1963-64, brought the second highest price of the evening, selling for £6,008,750 / $7,691,801 / €6,787,502 (est. £5-7 million). From Warhol’s very first sequence of self-portraits, created using images from a photo booth, this work is effectively the artist’s first-ever selfie. It appeared at auction for the very first time tonight, 30 years on from the artist’s death in 1987. Artworks from this period typically attract the strongest prices for Warhol at auction, with eight of the top ten auction prices for the artist coming from the years 1962-4.  

Self-Portrait comes from a concise series of nine similarly titled works, each made in the same scale using silkscreen prints enlarged from the same shred of photographic source material. In the latter part of the twentieth-century, Andy Warhol joined the ranks of Rembrandt van Rijn, Vincent van Gogh, and Pablo Picasso to take his place amongst the most important and influential self-portraitists in the history of art.

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Lot 10. Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait, acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas, 50.5 by 40.4 cm. 19 7/8 by 15 7/8 in. Executed in 1963-64. Sold for £6,008,750 / $7,691,801 / €6,787,502 (est. £5-7 million)Photo: Sotheby's.

Two joint collaborative works by Warhol and Basquiat, from the collection of Tommy Hilfiger, both soared over estimate. Sweet Pungent, 1984-85, sold for £4,433,750 / $5,675,643 / € 5,008,377 (est. £1.4-1.8 million) and New Flame, 1985, sold for £2,408,750 / $3,083,441 / € 2,720,931 (est. £1.7-2.2 million). Although teaming up with the legendary Warhol was certainly a coup for the 23-year-old Basquiat, the reciprocity of the collaboration should not be underestimated. Basquiat reinvigorated Warhol, who was inspired to paint by hand for the first time in 20 years. 

From the inimitable collection of fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol’s collaborative work Sweet Pungent is a painting of great significance. In 1983, fortuitous circumstances enabled the inauguration of a unique and perhaps unlikely collaboration between the founding father of Pop art, Andy Warhol, and the art world’s latest Neo-Expressionist prodigy, Jean-Michel Basquiat. Created in 1984-85, Sweet Pungent offers a unique insight into one of the most important relationships within the history of contemporary art and evinces a perfect partnership between aesthetic pioneers from different generations.  

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Lot 13. Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sweet Pungent, acrylic, oilstick and silkscreen ink on canvas, 244.5 by 206.1 cm. 96 1/4 by 81 1/8 in. Executed in 1984-85. Sold for £4,433,750 / $5,675,643 / € 5,008,377 (est. £1.4-1.8 million)Photo: Sotheby's.

Despite the distinct stylistic differences between the two artists, New Flame evinces a vibrant meeting of two of the most revolutionary minds in contemporary art. A vibrant medley of iconography and colour, the contrast between the artist’s two most iconic mediums – Warhol's consciously flat graphically inspired imagery and Basquiat’s coarse, textured oilstick draughtsmanship – is here completely subsumed by the pictorial blend of Warhol and Basquiat's style.

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Lot 14. Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, New Flame, acrylic, oilstick and silkscreen ink on canvas, 201 by 269.6 cm. 79 1/8 by 106 1/8 in. Executed in 1985. Sold for £2,408,750 / $3,083,441 / € 2,720,931 (est. £1.7-2.2 million). Photo: Sotheby's.

Other strong prices for American artists included Roy Lichtenstein’s Picasso-inspired Two Paintings with Dado, 1983, that sold for an above estimate £3,308,750 / $4,235,531 / €3,737,574 (est. £2.4-3 million) and Richard Prince’s School Nurse, 2005, that also sold above estimate for £4,096,250 / $5,243,610 / €4,627,136 (est. £3.5- 4.5 million). 

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Lot 6. Roy Lichtenstein, Two Paintings with Dado, signed and dated 83 on the reverse, oil and Magna on canvas, 127.5 by 109 cm. 50 1/4 by 42 7/8 in. Sold for £3,308,750 / $4,235,531 / €3,737,574 (est. £2.4-3 million)Photo: Sotheby's.

From the very outset, Roy Lichtenstein dedicated his career to making art about art. Lichtenstein exhibited a number of art historical icons rendered in the same hard-edged graphic style as his comic book paintings. Juxtaposing art historical icons and unifying them via the author's own borrowed aesthetic, Two Paintings with Dado at once reaffirms and furthers Lichtenstein’s position at the very forefront of appropriation art.

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Lot 11. Richard Prince, School Nurse, signed, titled and dated 2005 on the reverse, acrylic and inkjet print on canvas, 177.8 by 124.4 cm. 70 by 49 inSold for £4,096,250 / $5,243,610 / €4,627,136 (est. £3.5- 4.5 million). Photo: Sotheby's.

Based on the uncredited cover art of dime-store romance novels, the Nurses offer a transgressive scrutiny of idealised modes of feminine portrayal as popularised in the later Twentieth Century. Marking a reformulation of the iconic blonde bombshell trope as elevated into the realm of high-art by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, Prince's Nurses assimilate and pick apart erotic stereotypes and gender constructs.

Another important result for British art was set by Cecily Brown’s The Girl Who Had Everything. This monumental work set a new auction record for the artist at £1,868,750 / $2,392,187 / €2,110,946 (est. £800,000 -1.2 million), superseding the record set in London just earlier this year. 

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Lot 15. Cecily Brown, The Girl Who Had Everything, signed and dated 98 on the stretcher; signed and dated 98 on the reverse, oil on canvas, 253 by 279.5 cm. 99 5/8 by 110 in. Sold for £1,868,750 / $2,392,187 / €2,110,946 (est. £800,000 -1.2 million)Photo: Sotheby's.

WORKS THAT SAW THE DEEPEST BIDDING

- Lot 29: Wolfgang Tillmans, Freischwimmer #81, 9 bidders 

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Lot 29. Wolfgang Tillmans, Freischwimmer #81, signed on a label affixed to the reverse, c-print, in artist's frame, 181 by 238.1 cm. 71 1/4 by 93 3/4 in. Executed in 2005, this work is number 1 from an edition of 1, plus 1 artist's proof. Sold for £500,750 (est. £800,000 -1.2 million)Photo: Sotheby's.

- Lot 39: Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, 8 bidders 

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Lot 39. Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, signed, oil on canvas, 146 by 114.2 cm. 57 1/2 by 45 in. Executed in 1962. Sold for £2,168,750 (est. £800,000 -1.2 million)Photo: Sotheby's.

Epitomising the essence of Lucio Fontana’s ground-breaking career, Concetto Spaziale encapsulates two of the artist's defining traits: a continuous search for new forms of abstraction and an abiding re-evaluation of the traditional principals of painting. Striking in its compositional and monochromatic simplicity, the lyrical patterns of gashes – or squarci – here radically rupture the two-dimensional canvas support, and in doing so, Fontana offers a philosophical glimpse into the infinite void beyond.

- Lot 7: Jean Dubuffet, Béret Rose, 5 bidders

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Lot 7. Jean Dubuffet, Béret Rose, signed and dated 56; signed, titled and dated Août 56 on the reverse, oil and collage on canvas, 88 by 61.5 cm. 34 5/8 by 24 1/4 in. Sold for £2,633,750 (est. £1,200,000 — 1,800,000)Photo: Sotheby's.

Belonging to Jean Dubuffet's Tableaux d'assemblages, created in Vence between November 1955 and December 1956, Béret Roseembodies the artist's career-long fascination with the metamorphic portent of nature. An important body of work, in which Dubuffet explored the concept of pre-painted canvas collage, the Tableaux d'assemblages allowed the artist to experiment with new-found textures and depths in the picture plane, while excavating the mythological properties of the earth.

- Lot 13: Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sweet Pungent, 5 bidders 

ANOTHER FAVOURITES:

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Lot 20. Gerhard Richter, Split (Rubble), signed, dated 1989 and numbered 685-2 on the reverse, oil on canvas, 112.4 by 102 cm. 44 1/4 by 40 1/8 in. Sold for £3,871,250 (est. £3,500,000 — 4,500,000)Photo: Sotheby's.

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Lot 40. Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, Attesasigned, titled and inscribed Che cielo sereno!! Che serenità d'animo on the reverse  , waterpaint on canvas, 55 by 46 cm. 21 5/8 by 18 1/8 in. Executed in 1964-65. Sold for £1,088,750 (est. £800,000 — 1,200,000)Photo: Sotheby's.

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Lot 36. Anselm Kiefer, DEM UNBEKANNTEN MALER (TO THE UNKNOWN PAINTER), titled, acrylic and shellac on woodcut on paper laid down on canvas, 245 by 379 cm. 96 1/2 by 149 1/4 in. Executed in 1982. Sold for £992,750 (est. £500,000 — 700,000)Photo: Sotheby's.

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Lot 19. Gerhard Richter, STADTBILD M 6,  signed, titled, dated 68 and numbered 170 on the reverse, oil on canvas, 85 by 90 cm. 33 1/2 by 35 1/2 in. Sold for £848,750 (est. £800,000 — 1,200,000)Photo: Sotheby's.

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Lot 17. Cy Twombly, Lycian Drawing (Nimphidia), signed with the artist’s initials, titled and dated Sept 26 82, oil, crayon and pencil on Fabriano paper, 100 by 70cm. 39 3/8 by 27 1/2 in. Sold for £692,750 (est. £600,000 — 800,000)Photo: Sotheby's.

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Lot 24. Anish Kapoor, Turning the World Upside Down (Blue), signed, dated 2006 and variously inscribed on the reverse, paint and aluminium, 220 by 220 by 47 cm. 86 7/8 by 86 7/8 by 18 1/2 in. Sold for £632,750 (est. £500,000 — 700,000)Photo: Sotheby's.

*The 11 contemporary artworks included in last week’s ‘Actual Size’ Sale achieved a total of £6,425,250 / $8,101,599.