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Warhol self-portrait sells for $17.4 million in impressive contemporary art sale

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(via MutualArt)
A colossal self-portrait by "pope of pop" Andy Warhol sold for £10.8 million pounds ($17.4 million) at Christie's in London on Wednesday, doubling pre-auction expectations.

The recently discovered 1967 piece (pictured below), which measures six foot (1.8 metre) square, depicts Warhol with a hand to his mouth in what the auction house called "one of the most representative and iconic images of the artist."

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The auction house's evening sale of Post-War and Contemporary art fetched an impressive £61.4 million ($99 million) - the highest London result in the category since June 2008 and well above the £51.8 million pre-sale high estimate.

Dealer Larry Gagosian, bidding in the room, was underbid by Andreas Rumbler of Christie's on the phone and New York collector and dealer Jose Mugrabi, also in the room, Bloomberg reported.

"It has been an incredibly exciting journey to work with a previously unknown work by Andy Warhol, particularly one with such historic importance," Francis Outred of Christie's Europe said.

"We are thrilled to have been able to publish this work for the first time in our catalogue and to exhibit it to the public for the first time. It drew great admiration both at the exhibition and in the saleroom," Outred added.

The painting is one of 11 large-scale self-portraits executed in 1967, a time when Warhol had established himself as the most important figure in the Pop Art movement. Eight of these works were included in the painter's retrospective at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1989, two years after his death.

A strong result was also achieved by Martial Raysse whose 1962 L'année dernière à Capri quadrupled the pre-sale low estimate, realizing £4 million ($6.5 million) and shattering the artist's record from 2008, when Snack fetched £1.16 million.

Gerhard Richter's Abstraktes Bild was sold for £3.2 million ($5 million), doubling the high estimate. Its buyer, according to Bloomberg, was Sandra Nedvetskaia, a Zurich-based Christie's employee who looks after Russian clients. The seller made a hefty profit after he bought the painting for £657,600 in June 2005.

Another star lot was Jeff Koons' Winter Bears (pictured below on left) which sold within estimate at £2.9 million ($4.7 million). The 1988 wood sculpture is part of the artist's highly acclaimed Banality series, which launched him as an international art star in the late 1980s. Another version of Winter Bears resides in the collection of the Tate Modern in London.

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Another record at auction was achieved by Jenny Saville, whose Branded (pictured above on right) was sold above estimate for £1.5 million ($2.4 million). Painted in 1992, this notable early work is both seductive and disturbing in its depiction of the female form, as described by Christie's. It belongs to a group of paintings that convinced Charles Saatchi to launch Saville's career in the international art world. Branded last sold at auction at Christie's London back in June 2001, when Saatchi disposed of it for $337,750.

Eduardo Chillida had a strong performance as two of his works easily exceeded estimates, perhaps due to the recent recovery of his work that was stolen in one of Spain's biggest art heists. Lo profundo es el aire XX fetched 1.4 million ($2.3 million) while Elogio del Vacío V realized £881,000 ($1.4 million).

Two works by Lucio Fontana and Jean Michel Basquiat made it into the top 10 best selling lots of the evening. Fontana's Concetto spaziale realized £2.7 million ($4.4 million), selling within estimate, while Concetto spaziale, Attesa fetched £2.3 million ($3.6 million) against a pre-sale high estimate of £1.5 million. Basquiat's Lead Plate with Hole sold near its low estimate at £2 million ($3.3 million) while £1.8 million ($2.9 million) was put down for his Untitled, eclipsing the £1.5 million high estimate.

On Tuesday, Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening Sale in London realized £44,359,90 ($71,051,252) above the £43 million ($68.9 million) pre-sale high estimate. With Looking Closely, this sum brings the total for Sotheby's Contemporary Art Auction Series so far this Season to £88,022,550 /$138,728,359 (est. £56-78 million) - well above combined pre-sale expectations - representing the second-highest total for a February Contemporary Art Sales Series in London and the highest total for a Contemporary Art Sales Series in London since July 2008, the auction house said in a statement.

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