Thursday, October 15, 2009

GRAFF AUCTION| Christies| African Girl (Injabulo) 2009

LONDON—All 26 lots offered at jewelry magnate Laurence Graff’s charity auction of contemporary art at Christie’s Monday evening found buyers, but it’s unclear whether the sale — which precedes the major Frieze-week auctions — may have revealed a little hesitation on the part of bidders nonetheless, good cause and all.

Organized in part by the likes of bold-faced names Peter Brant, Uma Thurman, Hugh Grant, Naomi Campbell, and Dasha Zhukova to benefit For Africa’s Children Every Time (FACET), Graff’s recently formed, African-based initiative to aid youths and orphans, the sale realized £767,180 ($1,212,144). No commissions or buyer's premium was charged.

As the auction began under the gavel of Christie’s European president, Jussi Pylkkanen, loud strains of Shirley Bassey’s James Bond tune “Diamonds Are Forever” played in the packed King Street salesroom. And, suitably, diamonds figured in two of the evening’s lots: a pair of Khotsa Nala ("Peace Prosperity" in the Basotho language) double hoop earrings in white gold and round diamond pave donated by Graff, which went for £60,000 (est. £60–80,000), and Damien Hirst’s Porter Rhode, a 2009 oil on canvas depicting a famous Graff stone with a tiny trademark Hirst skull embedded in one of its facets, which earned £100,000 (est. £100–150,000). Hirst had donated the work.

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The evening’s top lot was also artist-donated. Raqib Shaw’s The Mild-Eyed Melancholy of the Lotus Eater (2009), in acrylic, enamel, rhinestones, and glitter paper mounted on aluminum, fetched £200,000 (est. £80–120,000). Both Graff and Shaw’s dealer, Jay Jopling of the White Cube gallery, were under-bidders for the work.

And a third artist-donated lot also made a six-figure price: Marc Quinn’s 66¾-by-102¾-inch floral still life, Crest of Mount Vinson (2009), earned £110,000 (est. £80–120,000).

The cover lot, South African artist Lionel Smit’s expressive African Girl (Injabulo) (2009), measuring 90½ by 65 inches, sold for £26,000, lapping its presale estimates of £6–8,000. (Injabulo means “happiness” in Zulu.)

But Graff, who sat in the first row, as he usually does at non-charity auctions, remained the under-bidder despite polite urgings from the auctioneer.

The auction action continues Friday at Christie’s. Stay tuned.


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