Lehman eyes $10 million at Sotheby's modern art auction

Tue Sep 21, 2010 10:39am EDT
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By Phil Wahba

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bankrupt financial group Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc is selling off part of its art collection, including works by Gerhard Richter and Maya Lin, in the hopes of returning millions to creditors.

Despite a lukewarm modern art market, Sotheby's estimates the auction of 160 works in New York on Saturday will yield $10 million. Proceeds of the sale will be used to pay creditors owed hundreds of billions following its 2008 bankruptcy, the largest ever in the United States.

Because of the sluggish market for modern art Lehman is selling a smaller number of pieces than initially planned and is focusing on big-name artists.

"You are seeing very selective buying," said Gabriela Palmieri, a senior specialist at Sotheby's contemporary art department.

In a bankruptcy auction buyers know that sellers are eager to get deals done, giving buyers an edge. So a smaller lot will whet art buyers' appetite and make bidding more competitive.

"No one wants to see a large glut," Palmieri said.

Many of the pieces up for auction were acquired by asset manager Neuberger Berman, which Lehman bought in 2003. Neuberger re-emerged in 2009 as an independent asset manager.

Palmieri said a number of buyers had already expressed an interest in bidding, including foreign collectors and even some ex-Neuberger executives.   Continued...

<p>"Untitled I" by Julie Mehretu is seen in this undated handout. The painting was commissioned by Goldman Sachs and has an estimated price range of $600,000 to $800,000. REUTERS/Sotheby's/handout</p>