Frieze London Opening Day & Christie's Post-War & Contemporary- Sales, News, and Links

Richter, Koons, and Grotjahn Stumble at Christie's

Good evening from London and good afternoon to those of our readers back in New York.

Our final Frieze edition will publish Sunday evening (New York time) when we return from our travels from across the pond and discuss tonight's Sotheby's sale and recap the full week at Frieze. Also, if yesterday's link to Nate Freeman's 25 Rising Power Players list on Artsy wasn't working for you, then you should be able to check out the full piece here.

For more on last night's somewhat disappointing performance at Christie's- don't worry, it wasn't all bad- please scroll further down. And if you want to hear Katharine Arnold's take from before the sale (she's the International Director, Head of Evening Sale, Post-War and Contemporary Art, EMERI, who was deeply involved in the organization of the sale) then we invite you to subscribe to our monthly editions here for a more thorough perspective. 

In the meantime, here are more sales from the white tents in Regent's Park.

Works at Pace's Frieze Masters Booth:
Lee Ufan's Correspondance for $155,000
A new installation work by Song Don, sold for $65,000
A 2018 painting by Adrian Ghenie for $200,000
Two porcelain wall sculptures by Chinese artist, Yin Xiuzhen, which sold for $86,000 & $68,000

Works at Lisson Gallery's Frieze Booth:
Haroon Mirza for GDP 45,000
John Akomfrah for GDP 75,000
Spencer Finch for $24,000
Dom Sylvester Houédard for $12,000

Works at Night Gallery's Frieze Booth:
Mira Dancy's triangle painting, Toxic sold for $36,000 (a big step up from four years ago when the artist's work was selling for $6,000)
Claire TabouretDuel in Sun (Bronze), sold for $33,000 
Derek FordjourTandem Green, sold for $18,000

Works at Jack Shainman's Frieze Booth:
Three Nick Cave “Soundsuits” works priced at $150,000 each 
Two works by Hayv Kahraman for $9,500 a piece 

Works at Robilant + Voena's Frieze Masters Booth:
An 18-inch-high plaster by CanovaBust of Caroline Murat, nee Bonaparte (circa 1810–12) for around $1 million dollars (as reported by Judd Tully for ArtNews)

An 18th-century Tiepolo painting, Portrait of a Young Pagebust length for less than a $1 million (as reported by Judd Tully for ArtNews)

A page-sized, single-slash, and deeply blue Fontana Concetto Spaziale Attese (1964) for $500,000 (as reported by Judd Tully for ArtNews)

Works at Sprüeth Magers's Frieze Booth:
Two Kaari Upson works selling in the range of $60,000 –$80,000
Jenny Holzer's LED work, Fuzzy, sold for $200,000
George Condo work for $80,000

And if you haven't yet heard the news, our November monthly edition will feature Victoria Siddall, director of all four Frieze fairs, Amalia Dayan and Daniella Luxembourg of Luxembourg & Dayan, and all the relevant players at Christie’s and Sotheby’s for inside looks and previews of the November Post-War & Contemporary and Impressionist & Modern evening sales in New York taking place later that month. So far, our December monthly edition will feature Dominique Lévy, and we're arranging more interviews with the top dealers and power players in the market literally as we're writing this edition of The Canvas.

So if you haven't yet already subscribed to The Canvas Monthly (and honestly, why wouldn't you? It's $18 per month or $179 for the entire year), then we invite you to do so by clicking the link below. 

Subscribe to The Canvas Monthly Here

The Christie's Frieze Post-War & Contemporary Evening Sale

Despite Jussi Pylkkanen's best efforts last night (he was the auctioneer steering the evening's proceedings), the air in Christie's King Street salesroom felt relatively flat and disappointing throughout most of the sale. While the overall total for the night came to £84.6 million ($109.4 million) with fees- the second highest total for the house's annual Frieze sale- it was hard to spin the night as a success with a trio of star lots failing to find buyers. 

The cover lot for the sale, Gerhard Richter's Schädel (Skull), from 1983 failed to surpass £11.5 million (about $15 million) against an unpublished estimate of £12 million-18 million. And two high-profile American works, Jeff Koons’s Cracked Egg (Blue) (1994–2006), and Mark Grotjahn's Untitled (Yellow and Green Low Fall Face 41.80) also failed to sell, tinging the evening with a definitive sour note. 

Even though the Koons work was the source of a brief bidding battle between Stefan Ratibor, director of Gagosian's London outpost (the gallery that represents the artist), and Francis Outred, Christie’s head of Post-War & Contemporary art in Europe, it seemed that the deep corporate coffers of the international behemoth weren't enough to convince the gallery's leadership to pay past £8.5 million for the gigantic, reflective, blue egg (against an estimate of £10 million to £15 million).

With that said, the night did boast a healthy 85% sell-through rate, with 45 of the 53 lots finding buyers. The top lot of the evening was Francis Bacon’s Figure in Movement (1972), which sold for £19.9 million (about $30 million), including fees, which was near the high end of its £15 million-to-£20 million estimate. It sold to Outred representing a bidder on the phone, with Per Skarstedt as the underbidder. Another bright spot for the evening was the sale of Jean Dubuffet's Madame au Jardin (1956) which hammered at £3.8 million (£4.5 million with fees). And German artist, Albert Oehlen's large Stier mit loch (Bull with hole), sold to Max Hetzler (the artist's European dealer) for £3m (£3.6m with fees), more than doubling its high estimate.

To The Canvas, the Koons work never really felt right for this sale, and it wasn't surprising to see bidding stall when the artist's market has been a bit soft as of late. The decision by Christie's to include so many Bacon and Freud works (12 in all) did prove to pay off, with almost all finding buyers amongst healthy bidding (if not for necessarily high prices as most of the pieces were decidedly less desirable than Figure in Movement). 

Ultimately, the Christie's European Post-War & Contemporary department is probably engaging in a little Monday morning quarterbacking regarding the decision to include a number of high profile lots at such lofty estimates. Although, at a time when everyone is fighting tooth and nail for consignments, it's relatively unsurprising that the house agreed to the high estimates in a bid to keep themselves in the consigners' good graces. No one is suggesting that last night's disappointments are indicative of a broader rut in the market, and Christie's should be able to quietly offload the unsold works in private sales. 

However, at a time when Christie's has been touting the importance of its annual Frieze auction, it is a bit odd that the sale included such a broad mishmash of works, at such high prices, with so few third party guarantees to ensure success. When seemingly the entire art world is in town for Frieze, it makes sense to tout British artists (like Bacon and Freud) throughout the sale; and make that a selling point for the evening. But to then muddy the waters by making the Richter, Koons, and Grotjahn such high profile lots? Well, the results speak for themselves... 

Five Booths to See at Frieze London

Galerie Max Hetzler (Booth A10)

Sommer Contemporary Art (A21)

Salon 94 (Booth C5)

David Zwirner (Booth B3)

Simon Lee Gallery (Booth E6)

The Party Circuit

Ed Clark: A Survey- Opening Reception at Mnuchin Gallery
(Spotted: Thelma Golden, Anne Pasternak, Adam Weinberg, Ray Grist, and Sukanya Rajaratnam) 

Lee Ufan Opening Reception at Pace Gallery
(Spotted: Marc Glimcher, Lee Ufan, Samanthe Rubell, Zoya Fraulova, Anne Huntington, Valerie & Charles Diker, and Arne Glimcher) 

Perrotin New York Celebrates: Daniel Arsham & Johan Creten 
(Spotted: KAWS, Ronnie Feig, Daniel Arsham, Emmanuel Perrotin, Blue Lindeberg, and Alexandre De Betak)

Have any sales reports, gossip, news, or tips you'd like to share with The Canvas? Email us at to get in touch. And while you're at it, check out our Instagram for pics from Frieze London.