Frieze Week auction highlights and editorial coverage

Following a busy Frieze Week for everyone at The Fine Art Group we are delighted to share our selection of auction highlights, editorial coverage and recommended exhibitions.

The auctions delivered one or two surprises amidst an otherwise robust and healthy set of performances. At Christie’s several key headline lots failed to sell (find out more below), while Sotheby’s achieved the highest ever price paid for a living female artist with a work by Jenny Saville and the most expensive item sold at Phillips during the week was by another female artist, Joan Mitchell.

Most sensational of all, the last lot in Sotheby’s evening sale, Girl with a Balloon by Banksy, self-destructed shortly after being sold for nearly a million pounds. Debate continues as to exactly who was in on the stunt…


Christie’s evening sale with 85% lots sold totalled £84.6m (excluding £39.6m Italian Sale) which is significantly higher than their counterparts and partly due to a new strategy of offering a lighter June sale and focusing all efforts on top lots for October.

Christie’s London Kicks Off the Frieze Week Auctions With a Tempered—and Very Brit-Centric—$161 Million Contemporary Sale by Artnet

Two high ticket lots failed to sell: Gerhard Richter’s photo-realist skull painting had one bid that fell flat of its £12-18m estimate, demonstrating that appetite remains stronger for the traditionally more successful Abstraktes Bilde paintings. The Koons Cracked Egg also failed to sell at £10-15m with one bid from Gagosian at £8m. Both examples perhaps point to sellers’ reluctance to decrease their reserves despite interest at lower levels.

The sale was ultimately led by Francis Bacon’s Figure in Movement (1972) which sold for a robust £19.9m, placing it within the top 30 results for the artist and proving that the market for British Art remains strong. Other artists who performed well include Albert Oehlen who had two lots on offer which now occupy the top two auction records for the artist. Hurvin Anderson’s works also exceeded their estimates again now holding second and third position for the highest results achieved at auction.


Sotheby’s sale with 81% lots sold totalled £68.7m largely thanks to the Teiger sale. Jenny Saville’s work Propped (1992) made a record-shattering £9.5m ($12.4m) against an estimate of £3-4m, the most ever paid at auction for a living female artist. Eight bidders contested the Saville in a marathon ten-minute bidding battle that was ultimately won by an anonymous telephone bidder represented by Helena Newman, Sotheby’s worldwide Head of Impressionist and Modern Art. The bidder was subsequently identified by Kenny Schachter as Russian investor Alex Greenberg (half-brother of German Kahn, co-founder of Alpha Bank and one of Russia’s richest).

Bigger than Banksy: Jenny Saville sets auction record by The Financial Times

Jenny Saville Painting Sets Auction Record for a Living Female Artist by Bloomberg

Jenny Saville Painting Sells for $12.4 M. at Sotheby’s London, Record for Living Female Artist by Artnews

The most sensational event of the night, which has unfortunately eclipsed Saville’s record, occurred when Banksy’s Girl with a Balloon which tripled estimates selling for £1 million, subsequently self-destructed after a shredder built into the frame was activated (supposedly by the artist himself).

Street Theater? A Famous Banksy Self-Destructs Live as Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Sales Fetch $91.5 Million in London by Artnet

Plucky Brits: Banksy self-destructs and Jenny Saville makes £9.5m record for a living female artist  by The Art Newspaper


Phillips’s 20th-century and contemporary art evening sale, held at its Berkeley Square headquarters totalled £20.2m ($26.4m). It, too, was topped by the work of a female artist: Joan Mitchell’s colour-charged abstraction Perch and Twirl (1973), which sold to an anonymous telephone bidder for an above-estimate £3.13m ($4.09 m).

Frieze and Frieze Masters

While the general consensus for Frieze London and Frieze Masters was ‘business as usual’, with generally conservative, balanced presentations and steady sales, art market commentators and the press offered up the usual slew of trends, talking points and scathing reviews. Below we offer some of the most engaging coverage from the week to bring you up to speed.

All major commercial galleries and public institutions open exciting exhibitions as the new season gets under way, so now is the best time to visit some of the many shows on offer in London. Below we share some of the team’s ‘must see’ exhibitions.

Several works at Frieze London drew strong responses from across the spectrum, with pieces by Urs Fischer (Gagosian), Josh Kline (Stuart Shave / Modern Art) and Tatiana Trouvé (Galerie Kamel Mennour) praised and critiqued with equal vigour.

10 of the Best Artworks at Frieze London 2018 by artnet

The five best and worst things at Frieze 2018 according to the White Pube by The Guardian

While the The Guardian’s critic Adrian Searle wrote an entertaining, bilious review of Frieze Masters.

Frieze Masters review – treasures mixed with kitsch in art’s big tent

Commenting on the generally conservative presentations at the fair, Julia Halperin for artnet offered an astute and extensive overview of sales at Frieze London.

‘Everybody’s Hedging Their Bets’: At Frieze London, an Uncertain Art Market Makes the Fair Less Fun (With a Few Exceptions)

Finally, follow a ‘mega collector’ shopping at Frieze London for insights into the conversations and relationships driving the art market.

A Walk Through Frieze London With Super-Collector Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair

Collectors swarmed to 1-54 at Somerset House proving that the market for African art is strengthening, the pioneering fair featured works by artists such as Kerry James Marshall.

‘African Art Is Here to Stay’: Collectors Were in a Buying Mood at the London Edition of the 1-54 Fair by artnet

Sign up for our monthly newsletter below.

Stay informed with The Fine Art Group's top stories & news.