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London still leads the way – for now

The rich legacy of Leslie Waddington | Solo booths set the tone | New galleries in London | Adrian Ghenie and Pino Pascali lead at Christie’s | Frans Hals forgery sets tongues wagging

9 October 2016

Apollo’s regular round-up of art market headlines and comment. Visit Apollo Collector Services for expert advice on navigating the art market.

The rich legacy of Leslie Waddington | Amid talk that market contraction and post-EU referendum jitters would hit London’s autumn season, Frieze Week kicked off in confident style with a white glove sale of the Leslie Waddington Collection at Christie’s. The 100 per cent sold rate and £28,285,525 total was testament to the late art dealer’s reputation as tastemaker and collector in his own right. It started with a portrait of Waddington by Peter Blake, which sold for double its estimate at £81,250. The plum lot, as expected, was Jean Dubuffet’s Visiteur au chapeau bleu (‘Visitor with Blue Hat’) from 1955, which also doubled its estimate and sold for £4.81 million.

Meanwhile, Waddington Custot gallery (which Waddington Galleries became in 2011 when Stephane Custot bought the late Lord Bernstein’s share) exhibited at Frieze Masters for the first time, its stand hung with the raw, ravaged canvases of the Spanish painter Manolo Millares (1926–72). The abstracts, dating from 1956 to 1970, were priced between £170,000 to around £900,000, and the earliest, Composición con dimensión perdida, sold on preview day. Other early sales at the fair included Elements V (1984) by Brice Marden, which had an asking price of $5 million, and a painting by Wayne Thiebaud (asking price £1.5 million), both at Acquavella Galleries (New York).

Solo booths set the tone | ‘Our artists love this fair. Lots of them visit, because they all collect, but not the obvious things. You find the unusual here’. So said David Cleaton-Roberts, director of Alan Cristea Gallery, sitting on the gallery’s stand at Frieze Masters devoted to the prints of Anni Albers, one of numerous stands at both this fair and Frieze London to concentrate on female artists. Solo artist presentations, traditionally seen as putting all one’s eggs in one basket, are increasingly popular and Cleaton-Roberts is pleased with the gallery’s single-artist format; last year it presented Richard Hamilton; in 2014, Josef Albers. By Friday afternoon of this year’s fair, it had sold more than 20 Anni Albers prints, priced between £2,000 and £6,000. At the moment they’re still affordable,’ Cleaton-Roberts said, adding that the artist will be the subject of a major exhibition in the UK, yet to be announced, in the next few years. She may not be so cheap for long.

New galleries in London | Alan Cristea Gallery also opened a large new space on Pall Mall last week, one of a gaggle of new galleries to open spaces in London during, or in time for Frieze Week. Others included Cabinet Gallery in Vauxhall and, in St James’s and Mayfair, Colnaghi, Skarstedt Gallery, Carpenter’s Workshop Gallery, Limoncello, Cardi Gallery, and Almine Rech Gallery, which opened with a divisive Jeff Koons show. Brexit or not, London seems only to gain in appeal as an essential gallery hub.

Adrian Ghenie and Pino Pascali lead at Christie’s | This has been Adrian Ghenie’s year; the 39-year-old Romanian painter is the market darling of 2016. At Christie’s 6 October evening sale of post-war and contemporary art, which totalled just shy of £34.3 million, the vast, brooding Nickelodeon (2008) made an artist record at £7.11 million, four times the £1.5 million estimate.

(2008), Adrian Ghenie.

Nickelodeon (2008), Adrian Ghenie. Image courtesy Christie’s

‘The Ghenie market had been growing, growing, growing,’ said Francis Outred, European head of post-war and contemporary art. ‘This was the culmination, and it is widely acknowledged as one of his best works.’ Nickelodeon was guaranteed by a third party who ‘proactively approached’ Christie’s, said Outred, a phenomenon they find is ‘increasingly common’ on desirable high-value works.

A sign of a contracted but hardened market, this was another ‘tightly curated’ (or small) auction of 41 lots, more conservative in content than the larger, more speculative contemporary sales of old. However, Christie’s sale did offer works by several up-and-coming artists under 40; alongside Ghenie, records were set for Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Lucy McKenzie, and Henry Taylor.

(1966), Pino Pascali.

Coda di delfino (Tail of a Dolphin) (1966), Pino Pascali. Image courtesy Christie’s

Immediately afterwards, in the 59-lot Italian sale, seven new artist records were set, including for the Arte Povera artist Pino Pascali, whose joyful Code di Delfino (‘Tail of a Dolphin’) sold for £2.7 million.

Frans Hals forgery sets tongues wagging | Art fairs love a scandal. After all, what better way to fill those long dull hours on a stand than with a little gossip. Talk of Frieze Masters has been the story of a fake Frans Hals , following Sotheby’s revelation that a portrait by the Dutch artist that was sold to a US buyer by private treaty for £8.4 million in 2011 has been reassessed as a fake (as reported in the Financial Times). Sotheby’s refunded the buyer in full for the work after pigment tests showed the work was ‘undoubtedly a forgery’. A forger of exceptional talent, it seems – and other works are now under suspicion.

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