Sotheby’s Art Evening Sale held on 1 July 2015 has become the culmination of the Contemporary Art Auctions season in London. The auction house expected to receive $220 – 315 million, but reality has turned out to be a little bit different than expectations and estimates. Nevertheless, auctioneers have managed to sell “One Dollar Bill” for nearly $33 million and “Four Eggs on a Plate” for more than $1.5 million, which makes $375,000 per egg! But let us tell you the full story in detail!
One dollar record
It all started in New York in the early 1960s when Andy Warhol was looking for his way in the world of art. One day, an aspiring artist asked his friends what to paint about. The answer was rather simple, “Paint about your favorite things!” That’s how Andy started to paint money – the ultimate symbol of wealth and status. Thus, in 1962, the famous pop artist created his “One Dollar Bill (Silver Certificate).” The first owner of the painting was Warhol’s business manager Frederick Hughes, and then it went to the Galerie Bruno Bischofberger in Zurich, where the current seller bought it in 1997. This year the painting was sold for $32.7 million, thus becoming the most expensive piece of contemporary art of the Sotheby’s Art Evening Sale, although its upper-bound estimate was $28 million. This artwork that measures 1.3 x 2 meters is the only Warhol’s painting created by hand before he started to work in the screen-printing technique. For example, his silkscreened image of 200 dollar bills was sold in 2009 for $43.8 million. What can we say other than Andy Warhol liked money on the wall!
The biggest failure of the sale has become Francis Bacon’s painting depicting the Pope in the crimson mantle. The “Study For A Pope I” was estimated at $39.2 – 54.9 million, but, as a result, it went unsold. This work is part of Bacon’s suite of six Popes started by the author in 1961 and finished a year later before his retrospective at the Tate Museum in London. The painting that has not justified the high hopes once belonged to Gunter Sachs, a German playboy, millionaire, and photographer who was in love with Brigitte Bardot. Ten years ago, he sold “Study For A Pope I” for a record $10 million, but now this Bacon’s work was bypassed with collectors’ attention. In general, the artist began to draw pontiffs in 1949 and returned to this subject over the next 20 years. He was inspired by the “Portrait of Pope Innocent X” created in 1650 by Diego Velazquez. It is interesting that Bacon had never seen this work in person. However, other paintings by Francis Bacon were successfully sold: a single self-portrait – for $23.9 million and a triptych of small self-portraits – for $23 million.
The small Lucian Freud’s painting (10.2 by 15.2cm) depicting four eggs on a plate, the preliminary estimated cost of which was $157,000, eventually fetched $1.5 million. It means that the lower-bound estimate was exceeded by ten times! The work was put up for sale by the heirs of the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, who died last year at the age of 94. She got the painting as a gift from Lucien Freud personally in 2004.
Despite the fact that four of the top lots were unsold, Sotheby’s sale totaled $204.7 million. This result has become a record in the history of modern art sales in Europe.