Andy Warhol, the late father of Pop Art, outshone younger stars such as Damien Hirst yesterday when a set of prints depicting Muhammad Ali achieved the highest price at an auction of modern works.
The Ali set sold for almost £29,000, well above its estimated price, while Hirst's much-trumpeted Spots birthday card, valued at between £20,000 and £30,000, failed to attract a buyer.
Both items were part of the Vision 21 sale, a Bonhams & Brooks auction of modern classics, which included early works by Tracey Emin. Most lots just reached their estimated price, with the Warhol proving the exception.
The signed works of the heavyweight boxer, who "danced like a butterfly and stung like a bee", were bought by a private buyer who joined the sale at the last minute.
Three of the Muhammad Ali images showed the young boxer in a solemn mood, framed by Warhol's characteristic multicoloured backdrop, with a third focusing on his clenched fist.
The prints, while less recognisable than Warhol's classic Marilyn Monroe or Elizabeth Taylor, were expected to fetch between £15,000 and £20,000. The hammer went at £25,000 with the images costing £28,750 once the buyer's premium was added.
A Bonhams spokeswoman said: "We are very pleased as it was well above what was expected ... They are part of a limited edition which makes them more collectible."
The late-Seventies prints, which originated from the artist's estate, are part of a limited edition of 150, all signed and numbered in felt-tip in the lower right or left-hand corner.
Bonhams said it was "disappointing" that the Spots birthday card Damien Hirst had sent to his art college secretary was left unsold, despite much excitement over its origins. Joan Hardee, who received it for her 70th birthday, was at the Chelsea sale with her son, the comedian and columnist Malcolm Hardee.
An early work by Tracey Emin just achieved the lower limit of its estimated price of between £1,000 and £1,500. The artist sold the painting in 1986 to a woman she was working with at the Dodgers café in Rochester, Kent.Reuse content