Yves Klein’s “Relief éponge” Auctions for $9,149,790 at Christie’s Contemporary Art Sale

Christie’s London Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale realized £39,149,500 / $61,073,220 / €44,278,085 selling 90% by lot and 96% by value. The sale had a pre-sale estimate of £26,290,000 to £38,260,000.

Francis Outred, Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, Christie’s Europe: “This evening’s auction not only showed that confidence has returned to the art market but also that there is a real hunger from international collectors for Post-War and Contemporary art. The strong results at our international auctions during the second half of last year encouraged vendors who were previously resistant to consign works of art, and the increased supply of quality works fed a strong demand and led to competitive bidding this evening. We sold more than half the lots above estimate, including 7 of the top works, and in selling 9 works over £1 million, we have already surpassed the equivalent figure for all three of our auctions of Post-War and Contemporary art in London last year. We saw particularly strong prices for classic European artists including Yves Klein as well as Tapies and Boetti, both of whose work established world record prices. These results should give consignors great encouragement as we look forward to the next major auctions of Post-War and Contemporary art in New York and London in May and June respectively.”

The top price was paid for “Relief éponge” or (RE47II) by Yves Klein (1928-1962) which sold for £5,865,250 / $9,149,790 / €6,633,598 (estimate: £5 million to £7 million). The longer of only two gold sponge reliefs ever created by the artist, it encapsulates the essence of Klein’s art with the marriage of two of his greatest series; the Relief Eponges (Sponge reliefs) and Monogolds. It was offered at auction this evening for the first time having been in the collection of the vendor since circa 1980.

At this evening’s auction, 9 works of art sold for £1 million (16 over $1 million). Buyers (by lot / by origin) were 33% UK, 41% Europe, 22% Americas and 4% Asia.

Further leading highlights of the sale:

· “Anthropométrie” (ANT 5) by Yves Klein (1928-1962) doubled pre-sale expectations realizing £4,129,250 / $6,441,630 / €4,670,182. The largest of only six works from this celebrated series to incorporate a mixture of fire and blue pigment, it was estimated to realize £1.5 million to £2 million. It last sold at auction in London in 2001 when it had realized £388,500.

· Fliegender Tanga (Flying Tanga) by Martin Kippenberger (1953-1997) realized £2,561,250 / $2,995,550 / €2,896,774, the second highest price for the artist at auction. An important early work in 5 parts which was acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 1984, it was expected to realize £800,000 to £1,200,000.

· Dollar Sign by Andy Warhol (1928-1987) sold for £2,281,250 / $3,558,750 / €2,580,094. It last sold at auction in New York in November 2005 for $1.6 million.

· Concrete Cabin West Side, 1993, by Peter Doig (b.1959) realized £2,057,250 / $3,209,310 / €2,326,750 (estimate: £2 million to £3 million). This large scale canvas was offered at auction for the first time having been in the same collection since it was selected by the vendor from the artist’s studio in advance of its first exhibition at a gallery in London.

· Head of J.Y.M., 1973, by Frank Auerbach (b.1931) sold for £1,441,250 / $2,248,350 / €1,630,054. One of the artist’s most important portraits of his most famous muse, Juliet Yardley Mills, it was expected to realize £900,000 to £1,200,000.

· Elsewhere in the sale, 4 record prices at auction were established for: Matthew Day Jackson (b.1974) (Bucky realized £601,250 against an estimate £30,000-£40,000); Joana Vasconcelos (b.1971) (Marilyn sold for £505,250 against an estimate of £100,000 to £150,000); Antoni Tàpies (b.1923) (Blanc amb signe vermellós (White with Reddish Sign) sold for £993,250 against an estimate of £300,000 to £400,000); and Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994) (Ononimo sold for £1,049,250 against an estimate of £250,000 to £350,000).