London sales: main results


A week after London’s first major – and highly anticipated – fine art auction sales of the year, Artmarket by Artprice looks at the sales’ most notable results, which were, overall, solid enough to reassure the art market.


On March 6 and 7, Sotheby’s evening sales of Modern and Contemporary art, including their ‘The Now’ sale of very recent art, generated a total of $127 million, a lackluster total compared with past performances (for the same sessions), but a satisfactory result considering most of the results obtained for the works in the catalogs.

Several records were hammered for female artists. Takako YAMAGUCHI crossed the 7-digit threshold for the first time with her work Catherine and Midnight (1994) fetching $1.1 million, double its low estimate. It was the first work by the Los Angeles-based Japanese artist ever auctioned in London and her previous auction record was just $10,000 for a work sold in Palm Beach in 2022. The new price threshold highlights this delicate work with Japanese aesthetic roots.

Besides Yamaguchi, two other female artists came away with new records: Etel ADNAN, for an untitled abstract canvas work created around 1970, which fetched $566,260 (double its high estimate), and Rebecca WARREN with her bronze sculpture Fascia III (2009), which sold for $729,500 (more than double its low estimate).

Sotheby’s post-sale communiqué suggests that 60% of the lots created by women exceeded their high estimates, including a work by Françoise GILOT who died last year at the age of 101. Her Portrait of Geneviève with A Necklace of Doves (1944) attracted strong bidding up to $922,000, almost four times its high estimate.

Among the top-selling works in these sales there was Claude Monet’s Arbres au bord de l’eau, printemps à Giverny which almost reached $10 million and a fascinating little portrait of George Dyer by Francis Bacon which sold for $9 million after more than half a century in the same hands.


Sotheby’s London

Turnover, including fees: $127 million

Equivalent sale last year (March 2023): $220 million

Lots offered: 70

Lots sold: 53

Lots withdrawn: 10

Top-selling lot: Picasso’s Homme à la pipe (1968), at $17.5 million against a low estimate of $15.3 million

From the Report on the 2023 Art Market. Consult the report and the evolution of the rating of women artists HERE


From its 20th and 21st Century Art sessions on 7 March – with its traditional section devoted to Surrealism – Christie’s posted a sales total of $250 million, which, unlike Sotheby’s, was better than last year (up 17% with an excellent sold-through rate of 87%).

The sale was crowned by Francis BACON’s Landscape near Malabata, Tangier (1963), which reached $25.1 million. This important work, often shown in major exhibitions dedicated to Bacon, lived up to expectations by selling at its high estimate.

The Bacon result was closely followed by David HOCKNEY’s California, one of Hockney’s earliest paintings, setting the stage for his most famous works like Sunbather (1966) and A Bigger Splash (1967). Kept in a private collection since 1968, the painting slightly exceeded the estimated price, going for $23.9 million.

The Surrealist session was led – once again – by René MAGRITTE, whose star lot, L’Ami intime, exceeded its low estimate by five million, going for $43 million, including fees. This masterpiece from the Gilbert and Lena Kaplan Collection – not auctioned since 1980 – fetched the artist’s second highest-ever auction result after his Empire des Lumières sold for $79.3 million in 2022.

Like Sotheby’s, Christie’s also recorded strong demand for female artists. High prices were hammered for Agnes MARTIN’s Loving Love (2000), a lyrical work from the end of her career, which fetched $3.6 million, and Cecily BROWN’s painting Can Can (1998), which sold for $2.8 million. After the sale at Phillips in November 2023 of Quirk my mannerism (2021) for $1.9 million, Jadé FADOJUTIMI’s monumental canvas, The Wicked Warped Garden of Ponder, set a new auction record for the artist, reaching $1.98 million after six minutes of bidding.

Surrealist Art Sale

Turnover including fees: $75 million

Equivalent sale last year (March 2023): $50 million

Lots offered: 25

Lots sold: 22

Top-selling lot: René Magritte’s L’Ami Intime (1958): $43 million


20th/21st Century Art sale:

Turnover including fees: $175.29 million

Lots offered: 80

Lots sold: 69

Top-selling lot: Francis Bacon’s Landscape near Malabata, Tangier (1963), $25.1 million