A Lucian Freud portrait of Andrew Parker Bowles – the ex-husband of Prince Charles’ wife Camilla – sold for $34.9 million at Christie’s on Tuesday as contemporary works by artists from Andy Warhol to Louise Bourgeois drew strong prices and spirited bidding.
While Warhol’s “Four Marilyns,” depicting screen siren Marilyn Monroe, drew the evening’s top price, it was upstaged by “The Brigadier,” a large-scale 2003-04 portrait of Parker Bowles, sat casually dressed in military regalia.
Camilla, now the Duchess of Cornwall, and Parker Bowles divorced in 1995.
Several bidders competed for the painting via telephone and in the salesroom, driving the final price to $34.9 million including Christie’s commission and beating the $30 million pre-sale estimate.
It was a second consecutive steady night at Christie’s, which scored the second-highest price ever for a work of art at auction on Monday when Modigliani’s “Nu couche” soared to $170.4 million, smashing the artist’s record by $100 million.
The sale of 66 works, which Christie’s said echoed Monday’s “very strong response from Asia,” took in $331.8 million, beating the low estimate of about $320 million. Thirteen lots went unsold.
Jussi Pylkkanen, Christie’s’ global head who also served as auctioneer, noted “a move toward European artists” as evidenced by the strong price for the Freud portrait, as well as a record for Lucio Fontana whose “Concetto spaziale, La fine di Dio” set an artist’s record of $29.2 million.
Among other highlights, Louise Bourgeois’ monumental sculpture “Spider,” which graced the auction house’s Rockefeller Center entrance, fetched $28.2 million, smashing the sculptress’ record of $10.7 million.
Warhol’s “Four Marilyns” was as expected the sale’s top-priced work fetching $36 million, but fell shy of expectations after Christie’s estimated it would command some $40 million. Estimates do not include commission of just over 12 percent.
The same piece was auctioned for a higher price only two years ago at Phillips. Officials said its quick return to the market was likely a factor in the soft price, although two other major Warhols failed to sell at all.
“We learn from these signals in the marketplace as to where tastes and prices are,” said Laura Paulson, post-war and contemporary art international director.
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Christie’s said when works don’t sell or fall short of expectations, reasons ranged from an artist falling out of favor or price points being too aggressive.
The auctions continue on Wednesday with Sotheby’s’ post-war and contemporary art sale.
(Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)