Frank Auerbach (British, born 1931), E.O.W. on her Blue Eiderdown V, 1963. Oil on board 57.5 by 83 cm. Sold for £2,042,500. Image courtesy of Bonhams
LONDON-Art works by leading British artist Frank Auerbach were the major highlights of the recent Bonhams Post-War and Contemporary Sale. Leading the art action that drew collectors to the edge of their seat was E.O.W. on her Blue Eiderdown V. E.O.W. is a stunning painting that has been featured in exhibitions at the Beaux Arts Gallery, London and Marlborough Gallery, London. Executed in 1963, the oil on board measuring 57.5 by 83 cm sold for £2,042,500, doubling its pre-sale estimate. With this auction price, E.O.W. on her Blue Eiderdown V is now the highest price ever for a figurative work by the artist.
A rich impasto painting done in the artist unique style, E.O.W. on her Blue Eiderdown V had not been seen in public for half a century. The painting features Estella Olive West, Auerbach’s most inspirational model. Auerbach met West, a widowed mother of three in 1948 when she was thirty two. Frank Auerbach was just seventeen years old.
West and Auerbach, an aspiring actress, met at the amateur Communist Unity Theatre, where they performed together in a production of Peter Ustinov’s House of Regrets. Frank Auerbach moved into West’s basement in Earls Court as a lodger. Soon, an intense relationship both artistic and personal quickly developed.
Better known simply as Stella, West was Auerbach’s muse for many years. For over two decades, West sat for Auerbach and he painted her obsessively. The portraits that he painted of her are revealing of the enduring complexities of their relationship which was at times tempestuous.
While some of Auerbach’s portraits are considered the greatest works of art, E.O.W. on her Blue Eiderdown V is exceptional in the true sense of the word. With its wonderfully thick impasto and glorious colors, it is the largest and undoubtedly the most impressive of his E. O. W. series.
In addition to E.O.W. on her Blue Eiderdown V, a second work by Auerbach, The Studios II, sold for £422,500 – well over its pre-sale estimate of £280,000-380,000.
There were other important highlights at the Bonhams’ Post-War and Contemporary Sale. Untitled (Red Fan), the first sculpture by Gutai co-founder Kazuo Shiraga ever to come to the auction market, sold for £1,538,500, the highest price achieved for any Gutai sculpture. Peju’s Robe, by El Anatsui, also surpassed estimation. It sold for £806,500, smashing its pre-sale estimate of £450,000-550,000.
When Banksy’s Keep it Real came up for bidding, the packed saleroom of emerging and established collectors went at it with vigor. At the end of the fiercely competitive bidding, Keep it Real sold for £194,500 against an estimate of £100,000-150,000. Victor Vasarely’s Taller-VV, also surpassed its estimate of £50,000-70,000 to sell for £146,500.
Also included in the auction is a strong selection of Post-War Italian art, featuring works by artists including Alighiero Boetti and Lucio Fontana, also performed well. Leading this section of the auction was Guilio Paolini’s Vis-à-vis (Alessandro), an important work from 1992. It achieved £92,500 – four times its low estimate. Three ceramic works by Fontana confirmed an increased demand for the artist’s work.
The auction which well-exceeded its estimate of £4,500,000, achieving a total of £6,361,525 is giving Bonhams reasons to celebrate. Ralph Taylor, Bonhams Senior Director of Post-War and Contemporary Art notes that the competitive bidding and high prices achieved at the action “are testament to the sensational nature of the works offered.” He adds: “It has been a particular honor to sell the first Shiraga sculpture offered at auction and to set the new standard for this artist, whose global significance is ever-growing.”
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