Clapton-owned Richter painting sells for £21.3 million


A Gerhard Richter painting owned by Eric Clapton sold on Friday night for £21.3m - more than 30 times what he paid for it in 2001.

The 1994 oil-on-canvas "Abstraktes Bild (809-4)" was sold by Sotheby's in London for its "Frieze Week" auction of contemporary artworks with an estimate of 9 million pounds to 12 million pounds. The buyer was Natasha Mendelsohn of Sotheby's, acting for a client on the telephone. She was underbid by her colleague Tobias Meyer, Sotheby's worldwide head of contemporary art, also taking instructions for a client.

"People are still ready to pay top prices for great paintings," Christophe Van de Weghe, a New York dealer, said in an interview. "While the market is selective, the Clapton provenance made a difference. It could have added as much as 20 percent to the price."

The predominantly red, dark blue and yellow abstract was one of three Richters bought by the U.K.-born guitarist for $3.4 million at Sotheby's New York in November 2001. At the time, this was an auction record for a lot containing abstracts by the German artist, with each worth about a third of the figure.

Richter, 80, who works in Cologne, Germany in both figurative and abstract idioms, has become the world's most bankable living artist, dealers said. His highly decorative abstractions, often painted with a squeegee, have become particularly sought-after by wealthy international collectors and set seven of the 10 highest prices paid for the artist at auction.

When Clapton bought his painting, the average auction price of a Richter work was $461,910, according to the database Artnet.

Values have been boosted by the critical and popular success of recent retrospectives at Tate Modern, London, and the Pompidou Center, Paris, dealers said.

The previous auction record for the artist was the $21.8 million for the 1993 "Abstraktes Bild (798-3)" at Christie's International, New York, in May.

Two lots after the Richter, the 1961 Yves Klein blue sponge painting, "RE 9-I," valued at 2 million pounds to 3 million pounds, sold for 3.7 million pounds. The buyer was Greek collector Dmitri Mavromatis, dealers said.