Shame About the Bonhams Contemporary Art Sale – artmarketblog.com
Unable to build on the relative success of their first contemporary art sale last year which achieved a sale total of £2,042,700 with 70% of the lots sold, Bonhams only managed to sell 13 out of the 20 works on offer for a sale total of £1,107,200 during their second attempt at a contemporary art sale on the 7th of February in London. Failing to sell the top lot of the auction, Urs Fischer’s Untitled 2006 (estimate £400,000-600,000), was a bitter disappointment for the auction house as was the passing-in of Gabriel Orozco’s “Atomists: Evasive Action” (estimate £150,000 – 200,000) and Victor Vasarely’s “Canopus 1/1, 1959-1965″ (estimate £140,000 – 180,000). Bonhams also notably failed to sell the top lot at their inaugural contemporary art sale.
The highlight of the auction was a rather underwhelming portrait of Lucien Freud by Frank Auerbach which sold for £481,250 (inclusive of Buyer’s Premium) against an estimate of £300,000 – 500,000. Fetching the second highest price of the sale was a Richard Prince photo called Untitled (Girlfriend) which only just scraped past the low estimate of £150,000 with the addition of the buyers premium for a final price of £157,250.
One of the most intriguing lots of the sale was Gabriel Orozco’s photographic collage (number 2 of an edition of 3) of a cricketer mid-shot overlaid with a number of deconstructive abstract elements. Considering that Christie’s sold number one of the edition in 2000 for £9,988, Bonhams may have been a bit overzealous with their estimate.
Commenting on the sale, Anthony McNerney, Head of Department, said that: “Following the inaugural Contemporary One sale in October, we were pleased with our achievements. We sold 70 percent by lot, which as a first sale in the current climate is positive. It is extremely exciting that the second sale in February will include such exceptional works, by some of the most celebrated artists of our day”
Unfortunately for McNerney, the high regard he held for the sale was not shared by the market and rightly so considering the underwhelming collection of works on offer. Although the catalogue consisted of artist’s who can truly be called “contemporary”, and most of the works were appearing at auction for the first time, the purist approach that Bonhams seem to be taking with their contemporary art sales just doesn’t seem to be working. Although I applaud the company for trying to do something different, one doesn’t like to see an auction house achieve a poor result. Perhaps a more commercially viable, broadly appealing approach would be a better way to go. I’m sure a compromise is better than continued failure at the end of the day.
The full auction catalogue can be viewed here:
Atomists: Evasive Action
plastic coated computer-generated laser print
201 by 96 cm.
79 1/8 by 37 13/16 in.
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.
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