Top works disappoint at Sotheby's $128 million sale

Wed May 11, 2011 9:58am EDT
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By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Despite the shaky performance of its top-priced works, Sotheby's sold $128 million worth of contemporary and post-war art on Tuesday, just above the $121 million low estimate.

Andy Warhol's "Sixteen Jackies" sold for $20.24 million including commission and Jeff Koons' iconic "Pink Panther" sculpture managed to brink in just under $16.9 million, but both works had been estimated to sell for $20 million to $30 million.

Estimates do not include commission, which is more than 12 percent.

The auctioneer's officials said they were pleased with the results from the auction that was held in Manhattan, while conceding that some estimates were high for a market that is still finding its way out of recession.

"Our estimates were possibly aggressive," said Tobias Meyer, Sotheby's worldwide head of contemporary art who also served as auctioneer.

But with 85 percent of the 58 lots on offer finding buyers, it was apparent that the auction house had worked with sellers to lower their reserves -- the undisclosed minimum price a seller is willing to accept.

As the sale approached, "we saw where things (in the market) were," Meyer said. "We did listen to the market," so works sold, if not always at levels originally anticipated.

Anthony Grant, senior international specialist for contemporary art, said Sotheby's tried to "take baby steps" out of the recession that sent prices plummeting in 2009.   Continued...

<p>A presenter stands beside Andy Warhol's Sixteen Jackies (L) at an exhibition hall displaying highlights from the New York Sales of impressionist, modern and contemporary art, ahead of Sotheby's Spring Sales in Hong Kong March 31, 2011. REUTERS/Bobby Yip</p>