UK contemporary art auctions solid, not stellar

Wed Jun 30, 2010 7:59pm EDT
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LONDON (Reuters) - The world's two biggest auctioneers, Christie's and Sotheby's, held post-war and contemporary art sales in London this week with total sales coming in at the lower end of expectations.

Wednesday night Christie's fetched 45.6 million pounds ($68.6 million) in its sale, compared with pre-sale estimates of 40.9 to 58.1 million pounds.

The star lot of the night was a portrait of actress Elizabeth Taylor by Andy Warhol which sold for 6.8 million pounds. "Silver Liz" was one of only two paintings by the artist to depict the Hollywood icon with violet eyes.

"Loopy," by Jeff Koons, went under the hammer for 3.4 million pounds, while "Mappa" set an auction record for artist Alighiero Boetti when it fetched 1.8 million pounds.

Sotheby's held its sale on Monday, raising 41.1 million pounds, compared with expectations of 38.3-52.8 million.

The auction house described the total as "solid," and although both sales totals were up from 2009 figures, the art market appears to have paused for breath after record-breaking prices set during the first five months of 2010.

Sotheby's top lot was Yves Klein's "RE 49, Relief Eponge Bleu," which made 6.2 million pounds.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)