Detail of Frank Auerbach's "Head of Lucian Freud," 1960
Bonhams's pursuit of the contemporary art cash cow is not going well. At the fledgling department's second Contemporary One sale on a gloomy Monday evening in London, bidders shunned the wet-paint works offered by the auction house, even at relatively moderate (for an evening auction) price points. Only 11 of the 20 offered lots sold — even fewer than last October's inaugural auction — with many of the most-touted pieces being bought-in. The sale total was a dismal £1.1 million ($1.7 million), and the chopping block included the top-estimated work, "Untitled" (2006) by Urs Fischer, which was expected to fetch £400,000-600,000 ($620,000-920,000). The sculpture was guaranteed before the auction, meaning the seller went home happy and the auction house was out a significant chunk of change.
The evening's top honors eventually went to Frank Auerbach's charcoal and chalk drawing, "Head of Lucien Freud" (1960), which hammered down at £480,000, near the high end of its £300,000-500,000 estimate. Other works that found buyers include the kaleidoscopic "Plaster Statue of John Glenn, John Glenn H.S, Westlands, MI; Chainsaw Sculpture of Bigfoot, Redwood Area of Northern CA" (2001) by the recently deceased Mike Kelley, which sold for £43,250, and Richard Prince's 1987 photograph "Untitled (Girlfriend)," which brought in £157,250.
The contemporary art action in London continues Tuesday evening — with better fortune, one hopes — at Christie's.