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The art world splurged over £91 million in London auctions last week

By Matt Breen

The pound is plummeting. The cost of Marmite is skyrocketing. But despite the rest of the nation's financial neuroses, the megabucks were flying back and forth in the art world during Frieze week.

And actually, the weak post-Brexit pound might have something to do with it with astonishing artwork sales figures. Auction house Christie's brought in a mind-boggling total of £91,092,925 during the week, and reported a high level of international interest, with bidders from a total of 37 countries getting involved. 

An early semi-abstract piece by David Hockney – painted while he was a student at the Royal College – went for a tidy £785,000.

David Hockney. 'Figure in a Flat Style', 1961.
© Christie’s Images Limited 2016.

Pffff: three quarters of a mil is small change when it comes to art. Compare it to French Art Brut painter Jean Dubuffet’s ‘Visitor with a Blue Hat’, which sold for £4,813,000. What d’you reckon? This, or that yacht you had your eye on?

Jean Dubuffet, 'Visiteur au chapeau bleu (Visitor with Blue Hat)', 1955
© Christie’s Images Limited 2016.

Okay to be fair, he’s dead. And everyone knows that dead artists fetch a pretty penny. But, despite being alive and kicking, the real star of the night was Romanian artist Adrian Ghenie, whose painting ‘Nickolodeon’ went for a figure that would make even Kayne wince: £7,109,000. That’s FOUR times the estimated amount.

Adrian Ghenie, 'Nickelodeon', 2008
© Christie’s Images Limited 2016

Meanwhile, Gerhard Richter’s ‘Abstraktes Bild 809-2’, was unveiled for sale. It's not exactly easy on the eye – you might describe the aesthetic as ‘alcopop sick’ – but is being sold by respected collector, connoisseur and guitar-twanger Eric Clapton. (Maybe ‘Layla’ royalties have dropped of late.) It goes under the hammer at the New York branch of Christie’s on November 15.

Gerhard Richter, 'Abstraktes Bild 809-2', 1994. Estimate: In the region of $20 million
© Christie’s Images Limited 2016

And remember those spotty pumpkins by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama that were all over Instagram over the summer? One of them went for £540,000 at rival auction house Sotheby's. (Just in time for Halloween, presumably.)

Yayoi Kusama, 'Pumpkin (A.H.T.)', 1991.
© Sotheby's.

And also at Sotheby's, one particular work hit the magic eight-figure mark. That would be 'Hannibal' by Jean-Michel Basquiat, a New York graffiti-artist-turned-artworld-superstar who died at the tragically young age of 27 in 1988. Get used to seeing this guy's work: he's the star of a major respective at the Barbican next year.  

Jean-Michel Basquiat, 'Hannibal', 1982.
© Sotheby's.

The final amount paid for this? £10,565,000. So it's business as usual in the art world.

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