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Post-war and contemporary auction report: Charles Saatchi strikes gold

Saatchi sells two Kippenberger paintings

British collector Charles Saatchi and US auctioneer Tobias Meyer were the big winners at yesterday’s auctions of post-war and contemporary art at Sotheby’s and Christie’s. Saatchi had consigned two major paintings by the German artist Martin Kippenberger to Christie’s evening sale. The star turn and top price was Paris Bar, 1991, estimated at £800,000- £1.2m, which triggered a fierce bidding war between German collector Ingrid Goetz, New York dealers Jeffrey Deitch and Tony Shafrazi and three telephones. It made £2.28m, going to a phone bidder. Deitch was successful in bagging the next lot, Kippenberger’s Kellner Des… (Waiter Of…), 1991, paying £1.1m, more than double the low estimate, for his prize. One surprise was that Saatchi had chosen to sell through Christie’s, given his agreement with rival auction house Phillips de Pury, which funds free entry to the Saatchi Gallery. Asked about this, Thierry Nataf, Phillips’ senior vice president, said: “We do not work on an exclusivity basis and from time to time Saatchi buys and sells elsewhere—it’s not a problem for us.” While Christies’ pareddown sale offered only 25 post-war and contemporary works, this proved a success, making £11.21m, well in excess of presale expectations of £6.78m- £9.49m, with only one work remaining unsold. “The auction house did a very good job in keeping estimates down. That’s key in today’s market,” commented New York dealer Christophe Van de Weghe. At Sotheby’s earlier in the day, a far weaker but much larger sale of contemporary art made a total of £12.76m. The highlight was Chris Ofili’s show-stopping Afro Apparition, 2002-03, which went to Iranian collector Fatima Maleki for £577,250 (est £280,000-£350,000). Damien Hirst’s Two Skulls, 2006, the back cover of Sotheby’s catalogue, sold to New York trader Alberto Mugrabi for £433,250 (est £220,000-£280,000). According to trade sources, the work had been consigned for sale by Tobias Meyer, Sotheby’s worldwide head of contemporary art. He refused to comment.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘Auction Report'