Well that was great fun. You walk in, the staff treat you beautifully, you are presented with a free luscious looking catalogue, and a Christie's pen to boot. The tone is set for the evening, right there.
This was the first Contemporary Art sale I'd been to at Christies King Street St. James, and I'll tell you something, it was like a different world. The room was jam-packed, standing room only, a full bank of telephones, a buzz in the air, and, get this; they even opened up another side room for excess bidders.
I happened to walk in during the sale of a really nice looking Lichtenstein Mirror estimate £500,000 - £700,000 (lot 11) which, after a hard fought battle between the room and a telephone, was knocked down to the telephone bid (I believe) at £1,700,000, plus buyers premium. From that moment onwards, the numbers just kept getting bigger and bigger with every lot, and the auctioneer was working it, and I mean working it really really well. Quite astonishing stuff to witness really, and has been said on this site before, there doesn't appear to be any letting up in the sale of great artworks, especially by great artists, and this sale had all the big names in it, Bacon, Klein, Hirst, Warhol, Basquiat and so on and so on. Watching and listening to the sale of a huge Peter Doig piece (lot 14), entitled Gasthof from 2002, which ended up with a rapturous round of applause after hitting £8,800,000 was incredible. It almost felt sportlike. You can't quite put your finger on it; definitely a casino like atmosphere. There were a couple of notable passes in the sale, the Gerhard Richters for example, didn't appear to do so well, with one major piece failing to find a buyer. Whether they were the better or more desirable Richters I couldn't tell you, but all in all, and in percentage terms, I think most of the lots in the sale sold at estimate or above.
The reason I was there this evening was to sneak a peek at Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' 1998, and, after reporting on the sale yesterday, see what it made against its pre-sale estimate of £800,000 - £1,200,000. The bidding started at £650,000 and swiftly rose, ending up at £2.2 million pounds plus buyers premium. For such an iconic British Artwork, I didn't think it too dear. When one thinks back to the 1990's and the UK's YBA movement, there are two pieces which, could be argued, really stand out. 'My Bed' and Damien Hirst's Shark in Formaldehyde, entitled 'The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living', both of which caused some outrage and furore at the time. Actually, 'My Bed' wasn't half as scary, or as outrageous as I thought it might be in real life. When one stands there and studies it for a moment, it's an emotional piece, an insight into Miss Emin's state of mind at the time. And, to a certain degree, maybe we've all had days like that, or felt like that on occasion, but for some of us, without the tights (pantyhose) of course.
We caught up with Miss Emin in the foyer of Christie's, and asked her if she was happy with the price her bed made in the auction, ''yes, very happy indeed'', and when we asked what piece she would like to go home with in the sale, she chose a really sweet dinky little work by Louise Bourgeois, untitled (chairs) 1998, lot 66, which ended up selling for a hammer price of £250,000 plus buyers premium against an estimate of £250-350k.
A full report on the sale to follow in the coming days.
25% up to first £50,000
20% Above £50,000 - up to £1m
12% Above £1m