Weiwei "sunflower seeds" in big Sotheby's art sales

Wed Jan 26, 2011 8:07am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Auctioneer Sotheby's will offer contemporary works estimated at more than 56 million pounds ($89 million) at a series of London sales in February, reflecting surging confidence in the fine art market.

The total is the second highest estimate for a February London contemporary art series at Sotheby's, and follows a successful 2010 when art prices rose sharply despite broader economic concerns.

One driving force behind blockbuster sales has been the presence of Chinese collectors and investors, who could be involved again next month with Ai Weiwei's "Sunflower Seeds" among the lots on offer.

The 100 kg batch of the handmade porcelain seed reproductions, which can be displayed according to the owner's tastes, is expected to fetch 80-120,000 pounds. It is the first time the seeds have been offered at auction.

The volume is dwarfed by a major installation by the Chinese artist at London's Tate Modern gallery, where some 100 million similar "seeds" have been spread across the floor of the huge Turbine Hall.

Given that the seeds in the gallery are reported to weigh around 150 tonnes, a market value could soon be put on the giant work.

Sotheby's said Sunflowers reflected the artist's preoccupation with the scale of industrial mass production, as well as with "unattainable" agricultural quotas set by China's late Chairman Mao Zedong "at unfathomable human cost."

Headlining the February auctions will be Gerhard Richter's "Abstraktes Bild," from 1990, estimated at 5-7 million pounds, and Andy Warhol's "Nine Multicoloured Marilyns" expected to fetch 2-3 million pounds.

There are also works by artists including Lucio Fontana, David Hockney, Frank Auerbach, Juan Munoz, Bridget Riley, Antony Gormley, Chris Ofili and Ged Quinn.   Continued...

<p>Porcelain sunflower seeds from an installation by Ai Weiwei entitled 'Sunflower Seeds', are seen scattered on the floor of the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern gallery, in London October 11, 2010. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth</p>