|Art market news: Modern British art performs best at Sotheby's auction|
Modern British sale hits £7.7 million estimated target, with Lucian Freud's former friend John Craxton selling well.
Modern British art easily outperformed the new sales mix of Victorian, early 20th-century, sporting, marine, Irish and Scottish art at Sotheby’s in London last week. The latter, which is really a combination of several previously stand-alone sale categories that have been experiencing dwindling results, felt like a hotch-potch.
Although some individual works by Sir William Orpen, Atkinson Grimshaw and Alfred Munnings sold well, nearly half the lots in the auction were unsold, and the total £4.6 million was far from the expected £7 million to £10 million estimate. The Modern British sale, in contrast, hit its estimated target, reaching £7.7 million with the help of several record prices.
The most remarkable of these were a six foot-long painting of a sleeping Greek fisherman made in 1948 by Lucian Freud’s one-time close friend John Craxton, which sold to London’s Pyms Gallery for £277,250, nearly £100,000 more than the artist’s previous record, and a painting of chess players made around 1929 by the Vorticist artist William Roberts. This superbly energetic painting, which captures the tension of the game and turns it into a spectator sport, doubled the artist’s previous record, set last year at the Evill Frost sale, selling for £1.2 million to the London dealer Daniel Katz.
Dealers have also mounted an array of Modern British art exhibitions this month to coincide and compete with the Sotheby’s sale and with Christie’s impressive-looking sale later this month. Bernard Jacobson in Cork Street has an extensive display of works by Ben Nicholson. The neo-romantic artist Keith Vaughan is the subject of exhibitions at Agnew’s in London and Anthony Hepworth in Bath. Gimpel Fils, close to Claridge’s, has an exhibition of bronzes by Robert Adams, and Jonathan Clark in Chelsea has a sumptuous display of semi-abstracted landscapes and still lifes by Ivon Hitchens.
Meanwhile, Stephen Paisnel in St James’s and Richard Green, next to Sotheby’s, have selected works by dozens of the most interesting and sought-after artists. Green’s display of works from Sickert to Lucian Freud is a tour-de-force that includes works by William Roberts and a select group of Scottish Colourists. One of the most popular shows is a retrospective exhibition for the little known 93-year-old artist Roland Collins, whose graphic compositions bear comparison with the work of Paul Nash, Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious. Held at Mascalls Gallery in Paddock Wood, the show has virtually sold out. CG