Christie's brings in the bids as art market stirs

Tue Mar 16, 2010 6:47pm EDT
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By Edward Krudy

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Auctioneers Christie's said its mid-season sale of 20th century decorative art and design generated strong interest from U.S. and foreign bidders in New York Tuesday in a sign the struggling art market is coming back to life.

Buyers bid a total of $1.2 million for 99 lots, which was double Christie's own low-end estimate. By value, 96 percent of the lots were sold, while 89 percent of the individual items found buyers.

"There is definitely more energy and excitement in the sales room than last Spring," said head of sale Carolyn Pastel from Christie's New York offices in Manhattan. "We really had a lot of interest in the States and internationally."

The global international art market was hit hard last year as the recession took its toll on luxury purchases. Total global revenue from fine art sales contracted by $3.7 billion in 2009 from the previous year, and was only half the $9.3 billion posted in 2007, according to research by Artprice, a provider of art market information.

Pastel said buyers from 18 countries joined U.S. counterparts via telephone and Christie's Internet bidding system, which Pastel reckons probably experienced its heaviest usage ever. Over a quarter of buyers and underbidders - participants with the second best bid - came via the Internet, she says.

A similar auction last Spring generated about $981,000, while only 81 percent of the auction was sold by value and 77 percent by lot.

Participants bid for 20th century objects and furniture, including items from Tiffany Studios, Frank Lloyd Wright, Daum, George Nakashima, Harry Bertoia, Sam Maloof and Joe D'Urso.

A 1910 "curtain border" leaded glass and bronze shade from Tiffany Studios fetched the highest price at $43,750. That was followed by a 1955 brass and steel sculpture by Harry Bertoia, which went for the same price.

In third place was another piece from Tiffany Studios, this time a leaded glass and bronze chandelier, also from 1910, which sold for $37,500.

(Reporting by Edward Krudy, editing by Anthony Boadle)

<p>Potential bidders examine paintings to be auctioned at Christie's in New York, December 1, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly</p>