Old Masters sales soar despite global woes

Fri Dec 11, 2009 6:05am EST
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By Bernard Orr

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Sotheby's hopes that the fervent mood at an auction this week in London of important Old Master paintings will travel overseas when several rare art works will be auctioned next month.

The fragile state of the world economy didn't influence the few deep-pocketed art collectors who vied for rare 17th century masterpieces in the British capital on Wednesday.

Sotheby's sale of Old Master & British Paintings in London saw a new auction record set for Anthony van Dyck when his last self portrait soared above expectations and sold for$13,521,704.

The portrait, hotly pursued by nine bidders, was the top-selling lot in a sale which raised $24,510,499, within pre-sale expectations.

Sotheby's December series of Old Master & British Paintings sales in London bought in $30,954,450.

In New York, Sotheby's will display several pieces for its Old Master week.

"The thing about the Old Masters market ... this market has been changing for five years. You are not able to sell everything on the market. But the high-quality, top-flight quality (pieces) will," George Wachter, co-chairman of Sotheby's Old Master Paintings Department, said in an interview.

"No one would have guessed that van Dyck would sell triple the world record. For the best of the best its nine people bidding away,"   Continued...

<p>Auctioneer Claudia Steinfels brings down the gavel during a Sotheby's auction of 123 pieces of Swiss art, in Zurich December 7, 2009. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann</p>