Warhol’s ‘One Dollar’ leads Sotheby’s record sale

A visitor looks at his mobile device as he walks past ‘Dollar Sign’ (left) and ‘Dollar Signs’ by Andy Warhol at Sotheby’s in London June 19, 2015. — Reuters pic
A visitor looks at his mobile device as he walks past ‘Dollar Sign’ (left) and ‘Dollar Signs’ by Andy Warhol at Sotheby’s in London June 19, 2015. — Reuters pic

LONDON, July 2 — Andy Warhol’s “One Dollar”, the first in his dollar bill series, fetched £20.9 million (RM123 million) at Sotheby’s yesterday, the top-seller in what the auction house said was its highest ever total sales for an auction of contemporary art in London.

However, the auction’s star attraction, Francis Bacon’s “Study for a Pope I”, which had been estimated at £25 to 35 million, went unsold after bids failed to reach the reserve price.

“It wasn’t the night for that one picture,” said Oliver Barker, Sotheby’s senior international specialist in contemporary art.

As a result, overall sales at the auction came in at just over £130 million, below the pre-sale low estimate of £142 million.

Despite the Bacon disappointment, Cheyenne Westphal, Sotheby’s co-head of contemporary art, said the auction house had seen sales of more than half a billion pounds in recent weeks in London, establishing the British capital as an art hub to rival New York.

Last week, Sotheby’s saw sales of £178.6 million at one auction in London, with 10 of the 51 lots selling for more than £10 million, while on Tuesday an auction of post war and contemporary art at Christie’s totalled £95.6 million.

The soaring sums come after two weeks of sales in New York in May brought in well over US$2 billion at both houses.

Yesterday’s Sotheby’s auction was dominated by eight works by Warhol, inspired by the US dollar and with the American pop artist’s 1962 hand-painted “One Dollar Bill (Silver Certificate)” exceeding its top of estimate of £18 million to reach £20.9 million.

The works sold for a combined total of £34.3 million, while another 11 in the series go under the hammer today.

Among the other big sellers was Gerhard Richter’s 1987 work “A B, Brick Tower”, which sold for £14.2 million, and David Hockney’s “Arranged Felled Trees”, which went for £3.4 million, more than a million above its high estimate.

Although Bacon’s standout painting failed to inspire bidders, two other works by the Irish-born British artist — a 1975 self-portrait and “Three studies for a Self-Portrait” — sold for £15.3 million and £14.7 million respectively.

“Four Eggs on a Plate”, a 2002 work by Lucian Freud which he gifted to the late Duchess of Devonshire, saw the fiercest bidding of the night. It sold for £989,000, almost 10 times its pre-sale estimate. — Reuters