An abstract painting by the German artist Gerhard Richter has sold for m, setting a new record for the price paid at auction for the work of a living artist.
Abstraktes Bild (809-4), which was owned by the rock guitarist Eric Clapton, sold at Sotheby’s auction house in London to an anonymous buyer after five minutes of bidding. Pre-sale estimates valued the painting at between m and m.
The sale broke the previous auction record for a living artist of m paid for Jasper Johns’ Flag at Christie’s auction house in New York in 2010.
The price for the 1994 oil on canvas also beat Richter’s previous record, set in May when Abstraktes Bild (7938-3) sold for m.
Sotheby’s described the painting as a “masterpiece of calculated chaos” and a “paradigm of Gerhard Richter’s mature artistic and philosophical achievement”.
“The combination of outstanding provenance and gold-standard quality in this sublime work by this blue-chip artist made for an historic auction moment,” Alex Branczik, the senior director at the auction house and head of the sale, said on Friday.
“Gerhard Richter’s international appeal as one of the hottest contemporary artists was once again confirmed this evening.”
The total value of Richter’s works sold at auction in 2011 topped m (m), according to the auction tracker Artnet – more than any other living artist and more than auction totals in the same year for Claude Monet, Alberto Giacometti and Mark Rothko combined.
Richter, 80, who lives in Cologne, was born in Dresden and grew up in communist East Germany. His work includes both abstract and figurative paintings as well as photographs.
A retrospective, Gerhard Richter: Panorama, was exhibited at the Tate Modern in London last year and at the Popmidou Centre in Paris and the Staatlichen Museum in Berlin this year.
The top end of the art market has performed strongly in recent years despite the downturn in the global economy.
The sale comes as the art world flocked to London for Frieze Art Week, the most important contemporary art fair in Britain, with exhibits by hundreds of galleries from around the world.
Clapton, 67, known for his work with Cream and the Yardbirds as well as a solo artist, has an extensive art collection.
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