Top lot fails to sell at Christie's auction

Wed Feb 9, 2011 5:29pm EST
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LONDON (Reuters) - A painting by Paul Gauguin, billed as the top lot at Christie's auction of modern and impressionist works in London, failed to find a buyer on Wednesday.

The tribute to the artist's friend Vincent Van Gogh, in the form of a still life with sunflowers called "Nature morte a 'L'Esperance," had been expected to fetch up to 10 million pounds ($16 million).

Overall, the auction raised 61.9 million pounds ($99.6 million) including buyer's premium, according to the company's website, toward the lower end of the expected range of up to 81 million pounds ($130.4 million).

Top lot on the night was Pierre Bonnard's "Terrasse a Vernon" which sold for 7.2 million pounds ($11.6 million), well above expectations of up to 4 million pounds ($6.4 million).

In a separate sale of surreal art also held on Wednesday, the world's largest auction house sold works worth 23.4 million pounds ($37.7 million), roughly in line with pre-auction estimates.

The auctions are part of a major series of sales in London this month which art market experts are watching closely for signs of strength or otherwise in the booming sector.

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

<p>A Christie's employee poses with Paul Gauguin's "Nature morte a 'L'esperence'" at Christie's auction house in London February 4, 2011. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor</p>