Monday, December 28, 2009

Top Auction Prizes of 2009


Head of a Muse by Raphael Photo: CHRISTIE'S

A Great Read!!: "The Choicest Morsels"
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The Choicest Morsels
Business Standard
Scott Reyburn & Katya Kazakina / December 26, 2009, 0:26 IST

Highlights of 2009 in international art sales — still big money, but more conservative collecting.

A chalk drawing by the Renaissance painter Raphael that sold for $47.5 million topped auction sales in 2009, beating a Matisse still life of cowslips that made an artist record of $45.6 million.

Elsewhere, an Andy Warhol painting of dollar bills fetched $43.8 million, a Rembrandt portrait reached $32.9 million and an Art Deco chair owned by Yves Saint Laurent took $28 million.

Collectors responded to the financial crisis by selecting the best 20th-century classics, Old Masters, wine and jewellery. They shunned some contemporary art as prices halved and sales fell 75 per cent. Private transactions increased as sellers at public auctions were no longer guaranteed minimum prices in 2009.

Here are some of the key moments of the year:

February 5: Sotheby’s London sale tallied £17.9 million (then $26.15 million), the lowest at its Part I contemporary auctions in the city since 2005. On February 11, Christie’s International failed to sell Francis Bacon and Mark Rothko works that it expected would fetch as much as £5 million and £3.5 million.


February 23-25: Christie’s raised 342.5 million euros from the collection of late fashion designer Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge. The total was the highest at auction of a private art collection, and defied economic gloom, said dealers. It would have been higher had Cai Mingchao, the Chinese winning bidder on two Qing dynasty bronzes, not refused to pay his bill of 31.4 million euros.


The Matisse 1911 cowslips still life Les coucous, tapis bleu et rose made 35.9 million euros, paid by New York-based dealer Franck Giraud. Records were set for other modern artists Brancusi (29.2 million euros) and Mondrian (21.6 million euros), while the Eileen Gray airchair made 21.9 million euros, a record for any piece of 20th-century design and 10 times its low estimate.


April 30: An aluminum “Lockheed Lounge” chair by Marc Newson sold at Phillips de Pury & Co in London for £1.1 million, an auction record for contemporary design. Pieces by Zaha Hadid and Ron Arad failed to sell.


May 13: David Hockney’s portrait of philanthropist Betty Freeman fetched $7.9 million at Christie’s New York, setting an auction record for the 72-year-old artist.


Christie’s $93.7 million evening tally represented a 73 per cent decline from May 2008. The previous evening, its rival Sotheby’s took $47 million, down 87 per cent from the $362 million auction a year earlier when a single painting — Bacon’s 1976 triptych — fetched $86.3 million.

June 10: Dealers reported revived demand for contemporary works at the Art Basel fair in Switzerland. A diamond-encrusted sculpture by Takashi Murakami sold for $2 million at the VIP preview. While visiting the fair, Los Angeles-based collector Eli Broad said a decline in contemporary-art prices had “levelled out”./

July: The financier J Ezra Merkin, sued by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo over his role as a provider of client funds to Bernard Madoff, privately sold Rothko and other art that had been frozen in the litigation, for $310 million.

October: A new Leonardo da Vinci drawing was announced. A chalk, pen and ink drawing of a girl in profile, sold at auction for $19,000 in the late 1990s, was examined by the Montreal-based forensic expert, Peter Paul Biro, who found a fingerprint corresponding to one on Leonardo’s painting St Jerome. It was valued at £100 million by London-based dealer Simon Dickinson. Discreet approaches have been made to a number of prospective buyers by its owner, Paris-based trader Peter Silverman, said dealers.



November 11: Warhol’s painting of 200 $1 bills fetched $43.8 million at Sotheby’s in New York. The seller, London-based collector Pauline Karpidas, paid $385,000 for the work in 1986. The 1962 silkscreen was temptingly estimated at $8-12 million and topped contemporary-art auctions that marked a return of confidence among both sellers and buyers, said dealers.

November: Shanghai-based collector Liu Yiqian paid about 170 million yuan ($25 million) at Poly International Auction Co in Beijing for a Ming Dynasty scroll by Wu Bin, a record for a Chinese painting. It was one of the high prices paid in 2009 by mainland buyers for pieces with Imperial connections.


December 1: A ring with a five-carat pink diamond sold for a record HK$83.5 million ($10.8 million) at Christie’s Hong Kong. During the sales, Christie’s sold HK$40 million of wine, including a 78-bottle lot of 1999 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, which fetched HK$1.44 million.

December 8: A drawing in black chalk by Raphael sold at Christie’s London for £29.2 million, an auction record for any work of art on paper. The work had been entered by the heirs of the British collector Norman Colville, with a low estimate of £12 million. It was bought on the telephone, dealers said, by the US-based collector Leon Black, a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.


Earlier in the sale, Rembrandt’s 1658 canvas, Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo, sold for £20.2 million to a telephone bidder later identified as Las Vegas casino developer Steve Wynn. The painting was sold by Johnson & Johnson heiress, Barbara Piasecka Johnson.

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