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Sotheby’s Evening Sale fetches $105M, Sparking Debate On London Market

The Sotheby’s evening sale in London fetched $105 million on Tuesday, a modest number but with graver signs.

The overall sale had a sell-through rate of 90 percent. Overall, it managed to bring $105 million in revenue (including premium) – above the low estimate, but $20 million short of its high estimate. The biggest name in the auction was the triptych Portrait of the Artist as a Young Derelict (1982) by Jean-Michel Basquiat. The work already garnered some gossip when it was listed with an estimate of $20-$25 million, despite having a $30 million estimate when Christie’s listed it in 2022 (the work ended up being pulled before it could have sold). This time, the Basquiat sold for $20.2 million, barely exceeding its low estimate.

The trend of barely making it past the low estimate continued for most of the auctioned works. Some, like Formian Dreams + Actuality (1983) by Cy Twombly which sold for double its high estimate at $3.11 million, were exceptions. Works from the collection of Ralph I. Goldberg brought over $16 million to the overall numbers.

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The sale couldn’t be called a failure by any measure; at the same time, it couldn’t be called a hit either. With similar revenue numbers as Sotheby’s previous London auction in March, many market experts are doubting whether London – once the center of the art market – is now declining towards a secondary status. The sentiment is particularly strong given how the major auction houses are strengthening their presence in Asia – particularly Hong Kong and Seoul – where they are seeing great returns. However, Tom Eddison (senior art specialist, Sotheby’s) disagrees: “We are very passionate about London being a great platform. We had 35 different countries bidding tonight. Certainly, for Sotheby’s, London still remains the global hub for people coming to buy. We are resolute.”