Art auctions wrap with Sotheby's contemporary sale

Thu May 13, 2010 3:51am EDT
 
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By Christopher Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - 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 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.   Continued...