Sotheby’s London Sales of Modern & Post-War British Art Total $13.5 million

Sotheby’s London Evening and Day Sales of Modern and Post-War British Art concluded with a combined total of £8.5/$13.5 million.

The top lot of the Evening Sale was L.S. Lowry’s Railway Platform of 1953 which sold for £1.1/$1.8 million (est. £1-1.5 million, further details on the painting below). A highlight of the Day Sale was a cast of Lawrence Holofcener’s iconic bench The Allies – the life-size cast (number 3 of the edition of 7) of the landmark on Bond Street which depicts Churchill seated on a bench with Roosevelt. A heated bidding battle between bidders both in the saleroom and on the telephone ensued, resulting in the work finally fetching £253,250 – almost four times pre-sale expectations (est. £50,000-£70,000) – setting a new record at auction for Holofcener.

The sale of the first painting by abstract expressionist post-war artist Nat Tate ever to appear at auction, Bridge no.114, sold for the above-estimate sum of £7,250 (est. £3,500-£5,000). One of only 18 works by the fictitious artist – created by best-selling author William Boyd – the sale saw multiple bids from buyers on the telephone and the work was eventually bought by an anonymous bidder whose favourite author is William Boyd. The work was auctioned to benefit the Artists’ General Benevolent Institution.

William Boyd, who attended today’s sale, commented: “I am utterly delighted and overwhelmed with the result of today’s sale at Sotheby’s. It was a rather surreal – though thrilling – experience seeing the auction play out before me with a number of bidders vying for the work, but foremost I am delighted that The Artists’ General Benevolent Institution will benefit from the sale.”

L.S Lowry’s Railway Platform, which sold for £1.1/$1.8 million, was painted in 1953 and depicts commuters on a railway platform, captured in the artist’s iconic style in their repetitive everyday routines of working life. Lowry had retired in 1952 at the age of 65, and the present work may suggest a sense of relief at having been released from the world of work. The painting displays the genius of Lowry’s ability to combine the great and the small; the expansiveness of a view over a town, or the milling swell of a crowd, yet never losing sight of the individual, their quirks and idiosyncrasies.

Nat Tate’s Bridge no.114, which sold for the above-estimate sum of £7,250, is the creation of bestselling British artist William Boyd. Memorably, in 1998 it was revealed that the art of a good hoax might very well be the hoax of good art, and that Nat Tate was in fact a fictitious figure created by Boyd in his biography Nat Tate: An American Artist 1928-1960. Grounded in vintage photographs of the unknown (picked up at various junk shops and car boot sales), fake New York galleries with real addresses and a group of well-executed drawings and paintings, the great literary ruse of Nat Tate had tricked even the most sophisticated in the art world. Today, however, the artist continues to have a meta-life more real than some of his contemporaries and still the lines of fact and fiction continue to be blurred.

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