Eric Clapton's $27m Richter canvas to test auction market

The painting, Abstraktes Bild 809-2 (above), owned by musician Eric Clapton, will be offered at a Christie's sale in New York next month.
The painting, Abstraktes Bild 809-2 (above), owned by musician Eric Clapton, will be offered at a Christie's sale in New York next month.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • Eric Clapton will sell a Gerhard Richter painting valued at about US$20 million (S$27 million) in an auction that will test the market for the German artist's work - and show the musician's prowess as a collector.

The canvas, Abstraktes Bild 809-2, will be offered at Christie's evening sale of post-war and contemporary art in New York on Nov 15, the auction house said in a statement last Friday.

Clapton paid US$3.4 million for a group of three 2m-tall abstract Richter paintings. He sold the two other works, in 2012 and 2013, for a combined US$55.2 million.

The third work could push his total above $70 million - or more than 20 times what he paid.

"It's an amazing return in 15 years," said Mr Francis Outred, Christie's chairman and head of post-war and contemporary art for Europe, the Middle East, Russia and India, in a telephone interview.

It has been a mixed year for the market of the 84-year-old Richter.

While an exhibition of his new work at Marian Goodman Gallery sold out in New York, his auction sales are down 92 per cent from their peak in 2012, according to Artprice.

Two significant paintings by Richter were withdrawn from auctions at Christie's and Sotheby's earlier this year.

"When there's a flurry of activity, there's often a pullback afterwards," said Ms Abigail Asher, a partner at art advisory firm Guggenheim Asher Associates. "People can retreat in the moment of frothiness."

Two other abstract works by Richter are being sold next month by Sotheby's. Estimated at US$20 million to US$30 million each, they come from the estate of Mr Steven Ames, a former partner of investment bank Oppenheimer & Co.

Richter sales were US$262.8 million in 2012 and have totalled US$18.4 million so far this year, according to Artprice.

Last year's tally of US$178 million was in part driven by hedge fund manager Kenneth Griffin's US$46.4-million purchase of a 1986 abstract canvas, an auction record for the artist.

Clapton's painting, which does not carry a guarantee, has a smooth, glassy surface, dominated by yellow, blue and green.

Christie's will exhibit the painting in London till Thursday.

"It's mystical and transporting," said Ms Asher. "It reads like an undulation of a pond."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2016, with the headline 'Eric Clapton's $27m Richter canvas to test auction market'. Print Edition | Subscribe