Gerhard Richter painting brings in $46.3 million at auction

A Sotheby's staff member walks past Gerhard Richter's "Abstraktes Bild," which sold for more than $46 million this week after going for just $607,500 in a 1999 auction.
(Andy Rain / EPA)

A 1986 abstract painting by Gerhard Richter brought in $46.3 million on Tuesday as part of a Sotheby’s auction of contemporary European art. The London sale brought in a total of $188.2 million, which the New York-based auction company said was an in-house record in the field of contemporary art.

Richter’s painting “Abstraktes Bild,” which is numbered “599” on the reverse side, exceeded sales estimates that it would go for between $21.3 million and $30.5 million. The final price of $46.3 million, which includes fees, represents a stellar return on investment for the owner: Reports in Bloomberg and the New York Times said the 10-foot-tall painting sold at a 1999 Sotheby’s auction in New York for $607,500.

Sotheby’s said the Richter painting represented a record price of any living European artist. The buyer of the work has not been identified.


Also on Tuesday, a diptych of oil paintings by Francis Bacon sold for $22.4 million, which Sotheby’s said was more than 41 times the price it achieved when it last appeared at auction, at Sotheby’s in 1993. But the painting fell short of the high-end estimate that it would go for $27.4 million.

The work, titled “Two Studies for Self-Portrait,” is part of Bacon’s series on George Dyer, and is dated 1977.

Tuesday’s sale featured 75 individual lots, though not all of them sold.

Sotheby’s has been outpaced by rival Christie’s in the contemporary art market. The fashionable sector has seen astronomical growth in recent years, with auction records being broken on a regular basis.

In November, the London-based Christie’s posted a record $852.9 million at a single auction of postwar contemporary art that took place in New York.

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