For love or money; the ascent of Peter Doig

For love or money; the ascent of Peter Doig

Offering Peter Doig’s 1991 painting The Architect’s Home in the Ravine for £14 -£18 million next week, Sotheby’s describes him as “Britain’s most expensive living artist”.

In 1992, shortly after Scottish-born Doig left art school, accountancy firm Arthur Andersen bought this painting from him for £1,500. By 2002, Doig’s reputation had grown but, following its involvement in the Enron scandal, the accountant had to sell its painting, whereupon it zoomed over estimate, selling to Charles Saatchi for £314,650.

The piece was one of several by Doig to be included by Saatchi in his 2005 exhibition The Triumph of Painting, a celebration of the genre that also included works by Martin Kippenberger, Marlene Dumas and Luc Tuymans. Two years after it closed, he sold seven Doigs to Sotheby’s for about £6 million (in the region of £860,000 each), which was a goodly profit.

Peter Doig, The Architect’s Home in the Ravine, 1991. Estimate: £14,000,000-18,000,000

Yet, within a few months, Sotheby’s was selling them for considerably more. White Canoe (1991) sold for £5.6 million pounds to Georgian businessman Boris Ivanishvili, and The Architect’s Home in the Ravine for £1.8 million to a collector in New York.

Asian buyers joined the global clamour and, as prices have risen, short-term investment seems to have taken over from love of art. In 2013, for instance, The Architect’s Home sold again for £7.6 million, and three years later for £11.3 million, to an anonymous buyer who had guaranteed the price at Christie’s. Now that buyer has a guarantee from Sotheby’s that the painting will fetch at least £14 million.

Next week, Christie’s is also offering Doig, in this case two paintings belonging to the Canadian philanthropist Donald Sobey. These tell a slightly different story to the one above. Sobey bought them in 2006 for a combined £1.1 million and now they are estimated to bring upwards of £6.4 million.

But here, rather than selling in the name of a quick turnover, Sobey’s profit will go towards encouraging artistic endeavour. He bought one of the paintings at a fundraiser for the Whitechapel Gallery, and is selling it and the other he owns next week to raise funds to show young Canadian artists abroad.

Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction, 7 March 2018, London;