Sotheby's London Evening Sales = £222,143,650 ($296,145,253)

Magritte performs well, but the aggressive bidding remains below $5 million

The total for Sotheby’s London Evening sales was $296,145,253 with 65 of the 76 lots offered finding buyers. That 85% sell-through rate would have been a very strong sale in the age before auctions were so heavily managed. It was still a strong sale, but the 1.0 hammer ratio for the evening reminds us again that estimates have caught up to bidders appetites, and buyers are wary of spending any more than they have to. 

This was perhaps best seen in the bidding for the star Magritte lot that progressed in half million pound increments despite the £51.5 million hammer price. 

The average lot for the sale was a strong $4.55 million. A dozen consignors were forced to sell at compromise prices below the low estimate. Another 11 consignors saw their works fail on the block. This is on top of the four withdrawn or postponed lots. That news shouldn’t dampen the 34 lots that sold within estimates or take away from the 19 lots that sold above the estimate range. 

The chart above shows the strength of the bidding on works that sold for less than $5 million. One can see that most heavily bid upon work, Flora Yukhnovich’s “Warm, Wet, ’N’ Wild” which sold for $3.5 million or 14.7 times the low estimate by hammer ratio, is in the upper right corner of the chart. 

The opening lot, Rachel Jones, "A Slow Teething," had a stunning 9.8 hammer ratio but sold for $821k. Next down the list of most dynamic lots were two different paintings that bracket the price points where the most active bidding took place. Shara Hughes’ “Naked Lady” sold for $2.7 million with a 7.5 hammer ratio. And Hilary Pecis saw “Fish and Bird” make $1.25 million, also at a 7.5 hammer ratio. 

Robert Nava’s record price for “Frozen Bark” at $636,804 saw a 6.3 hammer ratio. Stanley Whitney’s “Nightwatch” made $2.29 million with a 4.7 hammer ratio. 

Other notably strong sales were for Antony Gormley, Hurvin Anderson, Salman Toor and Jadé Fadojutimi. 

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