Andy Warhol first self portrait soars to $38 million auction

Wed May 11, 2011 11:18pm EDT
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By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Andy Warhol's very first self portrait injected the energy that been missing back into spring art sales Wednesday when it soared to $38.44 million at Christie's post-war and contemporary art auction.

The sale totaled $301.68 million, beating the high pre-sale estimate, and set records for several artists. Only three of the 65 works on offer failed to sell, for an extraordinarily high sell-through rate of 95 percent.

The total was Christie's highest since May 2008, just before the financial crisis sent prices into a steep decline.

The auction was dominated by eight Warhols, which took in a total of $91 million.

But the star was "Self-Portrait," a four-panel acrylic silk-screen from 1963-64 in hues of blue depicting the pop artist wearing a trench coat and sunglasses.

It was sold by the family of Detroit collector Florence Barron, who commissioned the work for $1,600 nearly half a century ago, making payments on an installment plan.

Two determined bidders competed in a protracted, 16-minute bidding war, with a private European collector prevailing.

"I really believe my mother-in-law would have been ecstatic," Nora Barron said after the sale.   Continued...