Eric Clapton’s Richter Canvas Sets Auction Record For Living Artist


A 1994 canvas by Gerhard Richter from the collection of musician Eric Clapton, Abstraktes Bild (809-4), sold to an anonymous buyer for $34.2 million at Sotheby’s London on Friday evening, setting a record for an auction price brought by a living artist and nearly doubling its high estimate.

The previous record auction sale for a living artist was $28.6 million, set at Christie’s New York in May 2010 by Jasper Johns’s Flag (1960-66), which came from the collection of bestselling author Michael Crichton.

Friday’s Richter sale exceeded by nearly $13 million the artist’s previous auction high, $21.8 million, which Christie’s achieved in May when it sold his 1993 Abstraktes Bild (798-3). According to a press release, three telephone bidders competed on Friday for over five minutes. Clapton bought Abstraktes Bild (809-4) at Sotheby’s New York in 2001 for $3.4 million.

The sale heightened the buzz in London generated by the 10th edition of contemporary art fair Frieze London and the inaugural Frieze Masters, which offers historical art. Both ran Oct. 11-14.

Sotheby’s Friday sale also set records for Isa Genzken ($425,355 for the lacquer-on-canvas MLR) and Gonkar Gyatso ($271,409 for the mixed-medium Endless Knott), as well as achieving the highest total for an October contemporary art evening sale at Sotheby’s London.

Friday was the second-to-last day of the Richter exhibition “Painting 2012,” at New York’s Marian Goodman Gallery. The traveling exhibition “Gerhard Richter: Panorama” was at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Tate Modern, London, and Centre Pompidou, Paris, during 2011 and 2012.