Last week, Jenny Saville’s “Propped” was sold for a grand £9.5 million, making her the most expensive female living artist.
The auction, which took place at the Contemporary Art Evening Auction in Sotheby’s New Bond Street gallery, saw a vigorous bidding war for Saville’s oil painting of a nude woman. The bidding came down to an intense and prolonged battle between five determined participants, with the estimated £4 million for the artwork more than doubled. The piece went to an unnamed bidder on the phone, and made the Oxford-based artist’s work the highest paid piece at auction by a living woman artist.
The record for the highest paid living male artist at auction is Jeff Koons’ “Balloon Dog” orange sculpture, which went for £36.8 million in 2013.
Saville’s art has been described as “one of the undisputed masterpieces of the Young British Artists” by Europe’s head of Contemporary Art, Alex Branczik, among other YBA contemporaries like Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst.
“Propped” is an oil on canvas self-portrait of the artist in the nude, depicted as a foggy reflection of herself in the mirror and clasping onto her thighs with her hands, questioning the societal notions of conventional beauty and size. The painting includes French words said by the feminist Luce Irigaray, written all over the canvas.
The large bid for Saville’s work set the tone for the rest of the night, with the total auction bids hitting £67.3 million, more than the £53.2 estimate.
Art adviser Nazy Vassegh told Artsy: “Female artists are being given greater exposure across the board: in museums, gallery shows, art fairs and auction houses. It’s definitely an important moment–and about time.”