Nov 16, 2016

Gerhard Richter Painting, Owned by Eric Clapton, Fetches $22m at Christie’s Auction in New York

It was a powerful combination – a painting owned by Eric Clapton and painted by the seemingly always-hot Gerhard Richter.
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“Abstraktes Bild (809-2)”, a painting Eric Clapton had bought for $3.4 million in 2001, sold for $22.1 million to the Richard Gray Gallery of Chicago and New York, more or less in the middle of the $18 million to $25 million estimate.

This was an auction that the art market and investors in art were looking at closely. And with $277 million in total sales, above the low estimate of $216.6 million, it looked like a respectable sale.

But compare this year’s auction to the equivalent at the same time last year, which brought $331.8 million from 66 lots (5 more than the 61 on sale on Tuesday) and you can see there is reason for art collectors to be cautious.
Willem de Kooning’s 1977 abstract painting “Untitled XXV” provided the highlight of the sale, selling for $66.3 million, which represents an auction high for the artist. It also represented a good return for an unnamed Las Vegas collector, particularly when considering the work was valued at $40 million.

More room for optimism? Perhaps. But that level of sale is happening far less in 2016, with fewer owners of important works willing to sell in the current unpredictable environment.

Joshua Holdeman, a New York art adviser summed it up well:

“There’s still depth to the art market. It’s just difficult to find trophy works that people want to part with. The market has returned to the bread and butter of people putting together collections of works priced up to $5 million."

And while artist of the moment Adrian Ghenie continued to surpass expectations, with ‘The Bridge’ (2015) selling for $3.9 million against a high estimate of $2.5 million, the real winner of this auction was undoubtedly Mr. Eric Clapton.