Art experts upbeat about London February auctions

Tue Jan 11, 2011 2:15pm EST
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By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Bolstered by strong results last year, leading auction houses are hoping sales in London next month will ride an art market recovery after the sharp decline that sent prices tumbling in 2009.

Art experts at Sotheby's said they are cautiously optimistic that works by Pablo Picasso, Frances Bacon and Salvador Dali, which are on display in New York this week, will set some new artist's records at the Feb 10 sale in London.

"There continues to be a very, very strong global demand for quality works, from collectors both established and new," said Helena Newman, Sotheby's' European head of Impressionist and modern art.

"That was very much in evidence in New York and in London all through last year."

Sotheby's is exhibiting more than 50 of the most valuable works it will auction in London, including "La Lecture," a 1932 Picasso portrait of his mistress Marie-Therese Walter, which has an estimated price of up to $27 million, and "Three Studies for Portrait of Lucian Freud" by Francis Bacon that could fetch as much at $14 million.

The 50-plus works are valued at more than $120 million.

Bacon's triptych of his good friend Freud, and a diminutive Freud self-portrait, could sell from 40 to 55 million pounds ($62 million to $85 million).

Tobias Meyer, Sotheby's worldwide head of contemporary and post-war art, said Freud was on holiday at Ian Fleming's famous "Goldeneye" estate in Jamaica in 1952 when he found himself trapped on a banana boat with a group of people he despised.   Continued...