Record prices for paintings, sculpture eyed at N.Y. auctions

Fri May 1, 2015 2:40pm EDT
 
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By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - With prices for top-tier works of art at an all-time high, records for paintings and sculpture appear certain to fall at upcoming spring auctions in New York by Christie's and Sotheby's.

Christie's scored a one-two punch this season, landing a Pablo Picasso painting and a Alberto Giacometti sculpture, with each expected to sell for $130 million (85.82 million pounds) or more, before a commission of just over 12 percent is tacked on.

The $140 million estimate for Picasso's "Les femmes d'Alger (Version "O")," a cubist work last auctioned in 1997 when it nearly tripled expectations, is the highest pre-sale price ever accorded an auction offering.

Close behind, Giacometti's 1947, 70-inch (180-cm) bronze, "Man Pointing," is set to sell for $130 million, which would easily eclipse his record for sculpture of $104.3 million held by "L'Homme qui marche I."

Both will be sold at Christie's on May 11, a sale billed as "Looking Forward to the Past," which augments its Impressionist/modern and contemporary auctions. The 35 lots are expected to fetch half a billion dollars.

"The high prices we see are a reflection of both rarity and surging demand," said Jussi Pylkkanen, Christie's global president. "Asian collectors have been increasingly active lately, bringing a new competitive dynamic, especially when it comes to top-quality masterpieces."

Sotheby's top offering is Mark Rothko's untitled yellow and blue 1954 oil, which is expected to sell for as much as $60 million. It is also featuring six Monets expected to total more than $78 million, led by "Nymphéas," estimated at $30 million to $45 million.

In all, some $2 billion worth of art will be offered to well-heeled, increasingly global collectors competing for an ever-shrinking supply of so-called trophy works, ranging from van Goghs and Picassos to Rothkos and Warhols.   Continued...

 
A worker sweeps the floor in front of Gerhard Richter's "Abstraktes Bild," estimated at a price in the region of $30 million, ahead of a preview event for Sotheby's upcoming evenings of impressionist, modern and contemporary art, in the Manhattan borough of New York City May 1, 2015.  REUTERS/Andrew Kelly