Christie's record-breaking art sale kicks off 2014 London auction season

Wed Feb 5, 2014 11:08am EST
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By Julia Fioretti

LONDON (Reuters) - The high-end art market kicked off 2014 with a bang when sales at Christie's impressionist, modern and surrealist art auction set a new record high for any London sale on Tuesday evening.

Staggeringly high prices for art at the top end of the market have made headlines in recent years, as an expanding class of super-rich collectors in emerging markets and easy money from the world's central banks have spurred prices to ever higher levels.

Christie's Tuesday sale, which opened a series of auctions to be held in London in February, showed the top-end art market was still sizzling.

Despite a legal setback just before the sale, which resulted in the auction house having to withdraw a Miró collection estimated to be worth 30 million pounds ($49 million), the evening sale fetched 177 million pounds, comfortably beating the pre-sale estimate of 113 million to 163 million pounds.

The top price was paid for a 1915 painting by Juan Gris, "Nature morte à la nappe à carreaux", which fetched 35 million pounds, setting a new world record price for the artist and for any Cubist work.

The large-scale painting was being offered at auction for the first time and came from the collection of a Swiss, who were close to many of the artists whose work they bought, Christie's said.

Picasso's "Femme au costume turc dans un fauteuil", depicting the woman the artist would marry six years later and one of his most important muses, was the second most expensive painting, snapped up for 17 million pounds.

A total of 35 works of art sold for over 1 million pounds, and three other artists set records for their work, Christie's said.   Continued...

A Christie's employee poses with Mario Merz's untitled artwork at Christie's Mayfair gallery in London February 5, 2014. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor