Double wammy for the Gunter Sachs collection at Sotheby’s



After the record Contemporary Art & Postwar art sales on 8 and 9 May, the art market’s dynamism has been confirmed by Sotheby’s sale of part of the Gunter Sachs collection. Spread over two days (22 and 23 May) in London, the 300 lots generated nearly $53 million of which $46.7m from the evening sale on 22 May. With more than 90% of lots sold, including three-quarters above their estimates, the first part of the sale produced no less than 16 results far exceeding their anticipated prices.

Patron and enthusiast of Pop Art, the millionaire playboy Gunter Sachs who committed suicide at age 78 in May 2011, left behind an extraordinary collection of artworks of which only a portion was offered for sale. As a close friend of Andy WARHOL, the sale contained 14 works by the Pop artist in the two sessions that were very much the main attraction. Of these 14 works, seven sold (4 at over $3 million), generating $26 m, i.e. more than half of the evening sale’s revenue ($46.7m). The main attraction was a late self-portrait Self-Portrait (Fright Wig) dated 1986 which generated the best hammer price of the evening at $7.5m.
Another highly anticipated lot was the portrait of Brigitte Bardot (former wife of Gunter Sachs) which eventually sold less entusiastically for $4.2m, only slightly more than its low estimate. While Gunter Sachs remained obsessed with the image of Brigitte Bardot from the 1960s to the end of his life, collectors had no trouble doubling the estimate for Richard AVEDON’s portrait of the beauty which fetched nearly $190,000 (Brigitte Bardot, Hair By Alexandre, Paris Studio, 1959).
One cannot imagine a better place than the house of a wealthy playboy to accommodate a range of erotic furniture by Allen Jones. Three pieces of furniture by the British artist made of mannequins in sexually suggestive positions attracted surprisingly strong bidding in the auction room and on the telephone lines. Generating a total $3.5m, each piece multiplied its high estimate by 16 to 20 times generating unprecedented results for the artist!
Thus for example Table estimated at £30,000 – £40,000 fetched £830,000 (over $1.3 m) while Chair and Hatstand carrying the same estimates sold respectively for £710,000 ($1.12m) and £660,000 ($1.04m). These were record prices for Allen JONES that substantially belittled his previous best in 2010 when his oil on canvas Soft Tread fetched $458,000 at Phillips de Pury & Company London (19 March 2010), just a third of his latest record.
Regarding French artists, CÉSAR’s Expansion Jaune attracted strong bidding to £150,000 ($237,000) against a high estimate of £80,000. François-Xavier LALANNE’s 3 Moutons de Laine also generated a superb result finding a buyer for $2.2 m at 4 times the high estimate. The best previous result for a moutons de laine, the artist’s most famous work, was on $1.5m (for 12 sheep).

With 247 lots fetching a revenue total of $6.23m, the day sale did not reach the heights of the previous evening, but still produced some remarkable performances. Among them, two paintings by Gérard SCHLOSSER that more than doubled their high estimates. J’ai envie de moules sold for $76,000 and Pousse toi un peu for $63,000. The year 2012 has started well for this major representative of Narrative Figuration who generated his third and fourth best auction results at this sale. With their market in decline for several years, Raymond HAINS and Mimmo ROTELLA’s torn posters also exceeded expectations. Among them, Mimmo Rotella’s Cléopatra, estimated £30,000 – £40,000, finally sold for $110,000 (roughly $174,000). Lastly, other fine performances were recorded for Diego GIACOMETTI, Jean FAUTRIER,BEN and Candida HÖFER… But ultimately, it was Gunter Sachs’ sensual works (because the collector was also a photographer ) that caused the biggest sensation. Having never fetched more than $11,000, the 10 photographs by >%=A476599%> presented at the auction sold for between $15,000 and $269,000. The best result was generated by a photo called Ascot which, thanks to the buyers’ enthusiasm, pulverized its estimate of £8,000 – £12,000 reaching a new record of $269,000 (£170,000). The provenance of the works in the collection – reflecting the glitzy life-style of its owner – was a key factor in the success of the sale.