Sotheby's biggest-ever London art sale comes as emerging-market buyers flock in

Thu Feb 6, 2014 1:22pm EST
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By Julia Fioretti

LONDON (Reuters) - Works by Picasso and Van Gogh helped the London arm of Sotheby's hit its highest-ever sales figure for a single auction, coming close to the overall London record set by rival Christie's a day earlier, as art sales boomed in the British capital.

The Sotheby's sale late on Wednesday totaled 163 million pounds ($266 million), and the auctioneer said on Thursday demand had come from both emerging markets such as Russia and longer-established markets in Europe and America.

"Our auctioneer, Henry Wyndham, was fielding bids from as many as five determined bidders on nearly every lot, coming from Russia, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America as well as the U.S. and Europe," said Helena Newman, the co-head of Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern Art department worldwide.

"It certainly feels like a great stride into the first of the 2014 sale seasons."

The previous day, a Christie's sale had fetched 177 million pounds, a record for any sale held in London by an auction house, even though the auctioneer had to withdraw a batch of works by Joan Miro at the last minute.

Highlights of the Sotheby's sale included "Le Boulevard Montmartre, matinee de printemps", a Parisian street scene by impressionist Camille Pissarro, that went for 20 million pounds to an anonymous buyer, and "L'Homme est en mer", by Vincent Van Gogh, which fetched almost 17 million pounds.

The sale also included part of the private collection of Holocaust survivor and four-time concentration camp escapee Jan Krugier. The 37 items, including works by Pablo Picasso and Pierre Bonnard, fetched a total of 53 million pounds.

The auction drew bidders from 44 countries, more than Sotheby's, founded in 1744, had ever seen for a sale in London in the same category.   Continued...

An employee poses with a detail of artist Gerhard Richter's artwork "Wand (Wall)" at Sotheby's auction house in London January 29, 2014. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor