Art buy­ing re­flects re­cov­er­ing rich

Con­tem­po­rary works fetch $75m in bid­ding com­pe­ti­tion ‘rem­i­nis­cent of 18 months ago’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - AUCTIONS - By Christo­pher Michaud

DE­SPITE ma­jor ca­su­al­ties, Christie’s man­aged to meet ex­pec­ta­tions this week at its un­even auc­tion of post-war and con­tem­po­rary art.

The sale, at which 85 per­cent of the 46 lots found buy­ers, saw briskly com­pet­i­tive bid­ding in a packed sale­room, tak­ing in $74 151 500 (about R553 mil­lion) in­clud­ing com­mis­sion, right in the mid­dle of the auc­tion house’s pre­sale es­ti­mate. But both of the most ex­pen­sive lots – Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Brother Sausage, es­ti­mated at $9m to $12m, and Andy Warhol’s Tunafish Dis­as­ter, es­ti­mated at $6m to $8m – failed to sell. Other works spawned pro­tracted bid­ding wars, notably Peter Doig’s Re­flec­tion (What Does Your Soul Look Like?) that soared to $10 162 500, twice the pre­sale es­ti­mate.

Amy Cappellazzo, Christie’s in­ter­na­tional co-head of con­tem­po­rary art, said the com­pe­ti­tion was “rem­i­nis­cent of 18 months ago” – when the art mar­ket boom was at its peak and just be­fore the fi­nan­cial cri­sis sent prices plum­met­ing.

Works by Jeff Koons, Don- ald Judd, Jasper Johns and Alexan­der Calder also achieved strong prices, some sell­ing for more than twice their high es­ti­mates.

Christie’s tried to keep es­ti­mates con­ser­va­tive, or “at­trac­tive”, as of­fi­cials put it, and the strat­egy of­ten paid hand­somely in a mar­ket still strug­gling to find its price points.

“Th­ese re­sults re­flected a mar­ket that is so­phis­ti­cated, fo­cused and de­ter­mined in its buy­ing ac­tiv­ity,” said Marc Porter, pres­i­dent of Christie’s Amer­i­cas.

The Basquiat, the top-esti- mated work in two weeks of sales at Christie’s and ri­val Sotheby’s, and the Warhol, suf­fered from an ap­peal lim­ited to a “small, ded­i­cated group” of col­lec­tors, Cappellazzo said, de­spite their “mu­seum qual­ity”.

“It was too in­tel­lec­tual a paint­ing for this mar­ket,” her part­ner Brett Gorvy said of the Basquiat. Be­fore the sale it was an­nounced that an­other Warhol had been with­drawn.

US buy­ers ac­counted for 82 per­cent of the sale, Euro­peans 13 per­cent, Asians and oth­ers 2.5 per­cent each. – Reuters

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