In a huge week for the auction world, Sotheby’s delivered on their promise of generating a sizable result for their Magritte painting and raked in a total of $297 million between two sales of contemporary and modern art. Meanwhile, Christie’s is reporting numbers that are just as encouraging: their post-war and contemporary sale generating $18,802,183, and Christie’s is also reporting sales to date of $352,805,261. René Magritte’s L’empire des lumières, which had never before been offered at auction, ended up fetching a tidy $79.7 million. Sotheby’s had predicted that the famous painting, which depicts a house shrouded in shadow under a sunny blue sky, would earn over $60 million dollars.
Sotheby’s scored several wins in the course of their cleanup. L’empire des lumières fetched the highest price ever paid for a painting in Great British Pounds in Europe, and also set an auction record for the artist: $79.7 million is three times more than anyone’s ever paid for a Magritte. The total of $297 million overall is also the highest total sale number ever achieved in a single day at Sotheby’s London.
At the Sotheby’s sale, Naked Lady by Shara Hughes far outstripped its £280,000 estimate to sell for £2,031,500, Banksy’s Vandalised Oil (Choppers) sold for £4,384,900 and Hurvin Anderson’s Lower Lake III (2006) sold for £2,818,000. These numbers indicate that UK collectors (and those who dialed into the UK sale from abroad) are deterred little if at all by Brexit, raising inflation rates and the generalized anxiety that comes with making big purchases within the high-stakes art market.
Additionally, Claude Monet’s Nymphéas went for £23.2 million and David Hockney’s Garrowby Hill (2017) more than doubled its estimate, ultimately selling for a tidy price of £14 million. Sotheby’s London has certainly earned a round of celebratory tea and biscuits.