By the Numbers: A Breakdown of Results From Christie’s 20th/21st Century Evening Sale in London, June 2023

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Christie’s staffers at the house’s 20th/21st Century evening sale in London yesterday (June 28) got an A for effort. The auction came a day after rival Sotheby’s headline-making sale of Gustav Klimt’s final portrait, which set a new record for the most expensive work of art ever auctioned in Europe. It wasn’t the easiest act to follow, and the auction pros at Christie’s tried to stay energetic and positive. But no matter how hard auctioneer Veronica Scarpati tried to enliven the two-and-a-half-hour long sale, it didn’t seem to be enough.

Despite a relatively high sell-through rate and several artist records set, the results were far from spectacular. Over a quarter of the works went under hammer below the lower end of their presale estimates, which do not include fees. These include works from the Gerald Fineberg Collection, including a 1956 piece by Cy Twombly, which went under hammer at £1.2 million against a £2 million low estimate; Enrico Castellani’s (1968), with a hammer price of £200,000 and a £250,000 presale estimate; Sigmar Polke’s 2022 untitled work, which went under hammer at £380,000 against a £500,000 low estimate; Jean Dubuffet’s 1950 work , which had a hammer price at £270,000, down from the £300,000 low estimate. The disappointment seemed to have traveled across the Atlantic from New York to London.

Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter, Grünes Feld (Green Field) (1969). Courtesy of Christie’s.

Here’s a breakdown of the key data from the sale…

Total Sales After Fees: £63.8 million ($81 million)

Lots sold (Including Guaranteed Lots): 61

Lots on Offer Before Withdrawals: 68

Lots Withdrawn: 2

Lots Bought In: 5

Sell-through Rate Counting Withdrawals: 89 percent

Sell-through Rate Excluding Withdrawals: 92 percent

Hammer Total: £51.7 million ($65.4 million)

Presale Low Estimate Before Withdrawals: £57.5 million ($72.7 million)

Hammer Total vs. Presale Low Estimate: –£5.8 million (–$7.3 million)

Total Low Estimate of Withdrawn Lots: £2.3 million ($2.9 million, four percent of the total presale low estimate before withdrawals)

Total Low Estimate of Guaranteed Lots: £18.5 million ($23 million, 32 percent of the total presale low estimate before withdrawals)

Total Low Estimate of Third-Party Guaranteed Lots: same as above

Lots With House Guarantees: None

Top seller: Paul Signac’s (1896), which achieved a hammer price at £6.7 million ($8.5 million) and eventually sold for £8 million ($10 million).

Lasting memory: When no one offered a bid higher than £2.8 million for Gerhard Richter’s 1969 landscape painting , the third priciest lot of the evening sale (estimated at $5 million to $7.4 million), many in the King Street sale room seemed disappointed. It was billed as a rare work that has been sitting in a private German collection since it was acquired directly from the artist in 1975. Tessa Lord, Christie’s interim acting head of postwar and contemporary, London, was still optimistic after the sale. “Richter continues to be one of the most in-demand artists today,” she said. “Early Richter landscapes are quite distinct. This is a market that has room to grow.”

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