Lehman art auction beats estimates at $2.6 million

Wed Sep 29, 2010 3:55pm EDT
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A sign from the bankrupt Lehman Brothers group fetched over $66,000 at a London auction on Wednesday, more than 15 times its estimate, as collectors and souvenir hunters fought for mementos of a corporate collapse.

A metal plaque commemorating the opening of the failed bank's Canary Wharf offices in the city in 2004 raised over $45,000, also many times pre-sale expectations of between $1,500 and $2,500.

Overall the auction raised 1.6 million pounds ($2.6 million), comfortably more than forecast.

Top lot on the night was "Atomists: Jump over" by Gabriel Orozco, which realized around $157,000. "Madonna" by Gary Hume realized $116,000 and "L'embarquement de La Normandie au Havre" by Theophile Poilpot fetched $106,000.

"The prices achieved in today's auction demonstrate just how much interest there is in anything related to the collapse of Lehman Brothers two years ago," said Barry Gilbertson, partner at PwC responsible for releasing value from Lehman's assets.

"The chance to own a piece of history does not come up very often. The administrators were confident that, by holding their nerve for two years and waiting for the art markets to recover, they would be able to realize the optimum return for the creditors."

Christie's said interest in the Lehman sale was unusually high, with 1,100 registered bidders including 330 via the internet, a company record for a European auction.

At the weekend Christie's rival Sotheby's sold Lehman art worth $12.3 million, a drop in the ocean of the billions owed from the financial group's 2008 bankruptcy, the biggest in U.S. history.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Patricia Reaney)

<p>A visitor looks at artwork at Christie's in central London September 24, 2010. REUTERS/Andrew Winning</p>