Art auctions wrap with Sotheby’s contemporary sale

By Christopher Michaud

NEW YORK, May 13 (BestGrowthStock) – The spring art auctions
wrapped up a fortnight of robust results on Wednesday as
Sotheby’s sold an impressive $190 million in post-war and
contemporary art. Works by Andy Warhol and Mark Rothko each
topped $31 million.

Only three of the 53 lots on offer went unsold as the
auction house easily exceeded the sale’s high estimate of $162
million. By comparison, Sotheby’s contemporary auction a year
ago managed just $47 million.

The deep spending and competitive bidding that marked sales
of Impressionist, modern and contemporary/post-war art at
Sotheby’s (BID.N: ) and rival Christie’s gave testament to pools
of wealth worldwide, and the willingness to tap it, analysts
said.

“I can’t say I would have predicted the snap-back in the
market” a few months ago, said Baird Ryan, managing partner of
the private financial and consulting services firm Art Capital
Group. “It looks very much like a ‘V’-shaped recovery,” he told
Reuters. “There are very few areas of softness.”

Analysts, art advisers and auction executives concur the
world’s wealthy have retained great liquidity through the Great
Recession and are once again ready to spend and invest.

Sotheby’s officials said the sale had achieved a “great,
great result,” driven by “a global hunger for great icons,”
according to Tobias Meyer, its head of contemporary and
post-war art, who also served as auctioneer.

“People are willing to break down barriers,” he said,
pointing to Warhol’s 1986 “Self Portrait,” a monumental
silkscreen being resold by designer Tom Ford that fetched
$32,562,500, more than twice the high estimate.

Ford “is very happy,” Meyer added.

PICASSO SALE SET RECORD

The other star lot was an untitled 1961 Rothko, which sold
for $31.44 million including commission, beating the $25
million high estimate.

Last week Christie’s set a record for any work of art
auction with Picasso’s “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust,” which
sold for $106.5 million, while Jasper Johns’ “Flag” broke the
artist’s record on Tuesday.

Major dealers including Larry Gagosian, Dominique Levy and
Guy Bennett all bid aggressively to win top lots, while Asian
buyers snapped up many of the highest priced works at Sotheby’s
Impressionist sale.

Analysts in recent weeks had predicted strong results for
the very best works. But given the traditional view of art as a
trailing indicator, as evidenced when prices continued to rise
even as the credit crisis took hold, few anticipated a recovery
so soon after the financial crisis sent prices plummeting.

But art advisers say collectors are using art as a hedge
against inflation.

Ryan drew a correlation between gold, which he said appeals
for its stability, low risk and low volatility, and “top works
of art being selected as a safe haven, or alternative asset,
for the very rich.”

“Calder,” he added, referring to the artist known for his
mobiles, one of which fetched $3.8 million, “looks like
currency to me.”

Tied in with the recovery in capital markets and equity
markets, Ryan said he expected the market to become “broader
and deeper and more international than it has ever been.”

Stock Market
(Editing by Todd Eastham)

Art auctions wrap with Sotheby’s contemporary sale