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Christie’s breaks European contemporary art auction record

Christie’s has set a new record for a contemporary art auction in Europe. The auctioneer’s post-war and contemporary art sale in London on March 6 brought in £137m ($190m), with pieces by Warhol and Basquiat leading the way.
The total figure is up 43% on the corresponding sale in 2017, clear evidence that this area of the market – particularly the top end – remains buoyant.

Warhol’s 1986 work Six Self Portraits was the top lot, achieving £22.6m ($31.3m).

The work comprises six differently coloured silk-screen examples of the artist’s “fright wig” image.

Basquiat's makeshift canvas recalls his earliest works

British art dealer Anthony d’Offay commissioned the piece from Warhol. It was one of Warhol’s last works before his death in 1987.

“Few of Warhol’s original silkscreen groupings remain intact, rendering the present work exceptional,” said Christie’s prior to the sale.

“Within a practice punctuated with complex self-portraits, the ‘fright wigs’ are widely considered to represent Warhol’s most deeply personal revelations.

“They are stark, rarefied exposures of an artist who ultimately became a greater cultural icon than his most famous celebrity muses.”

The price is well above the $24.4m achieved by a single canvas from the series at Sotheby’s in 2016.

Jean Michel Basquiat’s Multiflavors sold for £12m ($16.6m), comfortably within estimate.

Basquiat produced the work on a crudely constructed canvas – a continuation of his early career, when he would paint on anything he could get his hands on.

Three artist world records were set on the night. Mark Bradford’s Bear Running from the Shotgun achieved £3.8m ($5.3m), Kelley Walker’s Black Star Press made £572,750 ($793,850), while Maria Helena Vieira da Silva’s L’Incendie I (The Fire I) doubled its low estimate, realising £2m ($2.8m).

Sotheby’s main contemporary art auction in London takes place tonight.

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