Sales in London show signs of buyer fatigue

European modern and contemporary art night auctions fetched £311m (£370m including fees) at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips between June 28-30, but showed signs of market fatigue. market. Speculation about young artists continued but was cooler than in New York in May, while sellers who had arranged guarantees for top-notch works appeared to be the winners this season.

Christie’s recorded the healthiest results, totaling £171m (£204m with fees) on June 28, including 20 works by Marc Chagall sold by the artist’s estate and £11m from works sold through its Parisian auction house. Highlights in London included two guaranteed Monet brand paintings – ‘Waterloo Bridge, Effect of Mist’ (1904) and ‘Water Lilies, Gray Weather’ (1907) – which each sold within their estimates of 26 million pounds sterling (£30.1 million with fees). Sotheby’s two sales on June 29 were below estimates, totaling £125m (£150m with fees), but they fetched the highest price of the season: ‘Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud” (1964) guaranteed by Francis Bacon the Hammer for £37.5m (£43.3m with costs, estimated at around £35m).

Market watchers note that the prolonged and intense spring season of biennials, auctions and art fairs has likely exhausted the limits of a relatively small pool of art buyers. Meanwhile, worries about the rest of the year have started to affect the art market, which is not immune to the general economic gloom.


Nelson Shanks’ portrait, ‘Diana, Princess of Wales’ (1994), sold for over £300,000

London auctions and its seasons events such as the Wimbledon tennis tournament, helped attract art lovers to this year’s Masterpiece show at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, its first in-person edition since 2019. Dealers who had also attended the Tefaf show which took place rode in Maastricht noted more of an international ensemble in London, although the works, including a strong display of 20th-century British art, have a welcoming local feel.

At the Richard Green Gallery, sales included a view of Belle Vue House on nearby Cheyne Promenade, painted by Scottish artist and Pre-Raphaelite muse Alice Boyd circa 1873-75 (priced at £550,000). At the Philip Mold & Company stand, sales included a preparatory portrait of Diana, Princess of Wales, painted in a studio in Chelsea’s Tite Street by Nelson Shanks in 1994. The portrait, which shows Diana looking inward two years after her formal separation by Prince Charles, sold from Shanks’ collection earlier this year for $201,600, 10 times its auction estimate, and was promptly bought from Masterpiece for over £300,000.


“Highpower” (2008) by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye is estimated between £600,000 and £800,000 © Christie’s Images

Christie’s secured a collection of contemporary African art, estimated to be worth around £2million, for its Frieze Week sales in London in October. The so-called Sina Jina collection is among the works held by Robert Devereux, a longtime proponent in the field. Sina Jina in Swahili means “a place without a name” – as Devereux’s house on the island of Lamu in Kenya is also known.

Around 70 works by artists including Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, William Kentridge and El Anatsui mark the first time in more than 20 years that a significant collection of art from Africa and its diaspora has come up for auction, according to Christie’s. Yiadom-Boakye’s ‘Highpower’ (2008) will be the highest-priced work in the October 13 sale, priced between £600,000 and £800,000, while lesser-known artists – including Aïda Muluneh and Marcia Kure – will have estimates at from £3,000. All proceeds will go to support arts and environmental charities in Africa.


The Hôtel Lambert, a UNESCO listed building on the Ile Saint-Louis in Paris

Sotheby’s will offer around 1,300 pieces decorative arts at the Hôtel Lambert, a UNESCO listed building on the Ile Saint-Louis in Paris. Built in the early 1640s, owners of the estate since financier Jean-Baptiste Lambert have included the Marquise du Châtelet, whose lover was the writer Voltaire, Polish Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski and the Rothschild family. Bought from the Rothschilds in 2007 by Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah al-Thani of Qatar and his family, they reportedly sold the house for 200 million euros earlier this year after completing an ambitious – and sometimes disputed – renovation.

Much of the content set up by Sheikh Hamad, which dates from the 17th to the 20th century, is now up for auction. French furniture, enamels from Limoges and antique jewelery are among the objects whose estimates range from 1,000 to 1 M€. Sotheby’s has not confirmed the total expected proceeds from the Paris auction in October, but it is expected to be over $100 million. The sale will support the Al Thani Collection Foundation.


Vincenzo de Bellis is appointed director of the Art Basel fairs in Basel, Miami, Hong Kong and Paris © Pierre Ware

Art Basel has appointed Vincenzo de Bellis, curator and associate director of visual arts programs at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis since 2016, serving as director of its art fairs in Basel, Miami, Hong Kong and Paris. Marc Spiegler, global director of Art Basel, will remain in his role and on the board of its owner, MCH Group. He confirms that they continue to seek a replacement for Noah Horowitz to lead the American activities of Art Basel.

The appointment of de Bellis, director of the pointed Miart salon in Milan between 2012 and 2016, announces alternative activities for the brand. “The ambition is not to do more shows per se, but there are other opportunities,” says Spiegler. He cites Art Basel’s advisory role to Art Week Tokyo and SEA Focus, a fair in Singapore, as well as other digital and content initiatives. De Bellis joined in August.


Proceeds from the sale of ‘Untitled’ (2022) by Deborah Roberts went to the Chisenhale Gallery © Paul Bardagjy

Texas artist Deborah Roberts, with his Stephen Friedman Gallery, donated the proceeds of a $75,000 work to the Chisenhale Gallery, an east London non-profit. Roberts, whose figurative collage works address stereotypes faced by black children, donated the new work to benefit Chisenhale’s projects with young people, including its youth mental health partnerships. ‘Untitled’ (2022) has already sold out since Roberts’ solo show to Stephen Friedman, I have something to tell youwhich runs until July 23.

Zoe Whitley, director of Chisenhale, says Roberts, who visited the London space last year, recognized it as “a small place that punches above its weight” and admired its “respect for artists, regardless of their racial and socio-economic background.” Her gift means “we can pursue relationships to help people who might not otherwise have access to art see their creative potential,” says Whitley.

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