New art auction record may not be end, say experts

Thu Feb 4, 2010 11:46am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - A Giacometti statue smashed the art auction record late on Wednesday, fetching $104.3 million after just eight minutes of intense bidding at Sotheby's, and experts predict there may be even higher numbers to come.

"You only need two individuals to take something to $104 million or more," said Philip Hoffman, founder of the Fine Art Fund Group which has more than a dozen billionaire clients.

"I am confident we will break $104 million in the next couple of years," he told Reuters.

Whatever happens to the broader economy, there will always be super-wealthy individuals who look at the art world either as a passionate collector or a shrewd investor or both.

There are institutions, some with state backing, in the market for rare works to fill museums and galleries that have sprouted up, particularly in the Middle East. And while Russian buying may have slowed, China and India have made up for it.

Not that the art market has been immune to the global economic chill of the last two years.

Christie's, the world's biggest auctioneer in 2009, saw its sales fall by over a third from 2008 in dollar terms, as nervous owners kept hold of their prized possessions and buyers became more choosy about what they purchased.

But by the end of the year confidence had quickly returned.   Continued...

<p>A man walks next to "L'homme qui marche I" by Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti at Sotheby's auction house in London in this January 12, 2010 file photograph. The statue has been sold for 65 million pounds ($104.3 million) on Wednesday, a new record for any work of art sold at auction, according to Sotheby's. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth/Files</p>