Gerhard Richter's abstract paintings top Sotheby's $79.7m contemporary art auction

The excitement connected with tragic artist Jean Michel-Basquiat's Orange Sports Figure and the discovery of an 'invisible' signature appears to have helped Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening Auction on Wednesday.

That startling and gripping work - one of a handful to make it to auction - beat its estimate of £3m-4m to sell for £4.07m.

The invisible signature was stumbled upon within the last few days before the sale: under UV light, Basquiat's autograph becomes clear. He had apparently signed the work using invisible ink.

Basquiat led a short life, dying at 27 of a heroin overdose but it was a lively one. He appeared in a video for the band Blondie and worked with Andy Warhol.

Basquiat Orange Sports Figure
Basquiat's Orange Sports Figure

Collectors who wish they'd had a chance to get close to Andy Warhol will be pleased to know that a polo neck jumper which the artist famously wore is available for sale from our stock right now.

Despite the excitement relating to the sale, Basquiat's work was not the highest priced lot in the auction. In fact it was not even a clear third place, tying for that role with was one of Gerhard Richter's Abstraktes Bild cycle of paintings ("Rot") which also sold for £4.3m.

Another Abstraktes Bild (numbered 768-4) sold for £4.86m after sparring between phone bidders, and took the top lot spot, whilst his Eis ("Ice") painting brought £4.3m - making a world record price for a landscape painting by the artist at auction.

Gerhand Richter landscape painting Eis or Ice
Gerhand Richter's landscape painting Eis or Ice

In total, the auction achieved £50,688,450 ($79,672,106) easing past expectations of £35.8m-49.7m with a stunning sell through rate of 94.6% by value and establishing two records for artists at auction:  A. R. Penck and Albert Oehlen.

Gerhard Richter Abstrakes Bild 768-4
Gerhard Richter Abstrakes Bild 768-4


 "We're extremely pleased with the results of tonight's sale and the above-estimate total of £50 million which we achieved. We witnessed a huge depth of international bidding right across the auction, with buyers coming from no fewer than 20 countries." commented Cheyenne Westphal, Sotheby's Chairman of Contemporary Art Europe.

"Gerhard Richter once again dominated, with all six of his works selling for an aggregate sum of £17.6 million, above the combined estimate for the group of £14.8 million, with four of the pieces falling within the top-ten selling works in the sale."

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