Modern British art busts records

Modern British art busts records

Artists who represent key art movements of the 20th century set the pace during last week’s Modern British art auctions in London. At Sotheby’s, top price was for A Dawn, 1914, a classic First World War vorticist picture by C R W Nevinson – a patchwork of angles portraying French soldiers teeming through a street on the way to war.

“It was a rare opportunity that had to be seized,” says Gordon Samuel, a London dealer who fought off rival dealers Daniel Katz and Richard Nagy to buy the painting for £1.9 million, a double estimate record and almost quadruple the artist’s previous record.

Nevinson, A Dawn, oil on canvas, 1914

At Bonhams, sparks were flying for another vorticist-related work – a 1913 drawing for a mural about Billingsgate Market by William Roberts, made when he was a student and which prefigured his shift into vorticism. It tripled estimates to sell for £162,500.

At Christie’s, a collage by the British pop artist Richard Hamilton, a study for his 1958 painting $he, which riffs on domestic products and consumer culture, stormed beyond its £120,000 estimate to sell for a record £440,750. And fellow pop pioneer Peter Blake’s 1965 painted collage of a female wrestler, Little Lady Luck, just pipped Blake’s previous record to sell for £704,750. The painting was owned by restaurateur Mr Chow, who bought it in 2000 for around £90,000.

Pauline Boty (1938-1966), BUM, oil on canvas. Estimate: £200,000-300,000. Sold: £632,750 CREDIT: © CHRISTIE’S IMAGES LIMITED 2017

A painting by rediscovered artist Pauline Boty – a fellow student of Blake’s who died at 28 – doubled estimates to sell for a record £632,750. Boty’s works were unearthed in a garage in the late Nineties, when collectors queued up to purchase them. This particular example came from the estate of Kenneth Tynan who commissioned the 1966 painting – aptly titled BUM, for his erotic cabaret Oh! Calcutta!.

Christie’s sale also expanded into the contemporary with an 8ft bronze dancing hare, titled Nijinski Hare, by Barry Flanagan. It scored a record £1.3 million, selling to art adviser Gilly Kinloch.

Barry Flanagan, R.A. (1941-2009) Nijinski Hare (numbered ‘4/5’) Conceived in 1985 in an edition of five, plus three artist’s casts. Estimate: £600,000-800,000. Sold: £1,328,750 CREDIT: © CHRISTIE’S IMAGES LIMITED 2017

At Christie’s British Impressionism sale, a large 1904 hunting picture showing the four children of Edward Lycett Green (one of the then Prince of Wales’s gambling set) on horseback, provoked a bidding battle between private dealers Anthony Mould and Guy Morrison that pulverised the previous record for artist Charles Wellington Furse. Morrison won the painting for £668,750. Generally, though, the sale was a subdued affair, with few true impressionist paintings.