Auction houses gear up for New York art sales

Tue May 3, 2011 2:42pm EDT
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By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Buoyed by record results amid a dramatic art market recovery and an increasingly global clientele, Christie's and Sotheby's are gearing up for spring auctions with nearly $1 billion of art for sale.

Last year proved one of the best with Christie's posting a record $5 billion in sales and Sotheby's making $774 million in revenue -- six times more than 2009 and its second highest ever apart from 2007.

It was a far cry from 2009's dire drop in sales amid the global financial crisis.

"We had not budgeted for such robustness last year," said Marc Porter, chairman of Christie's Americas. "It was rather amazing."

But he added that "it is still a market where you can't push prices -- that doesn't change."

What has changed is the ascendance of the contemporary and post-war sector, which has nipped at and sometimes eclipsed the once indomitable Impressionist and modern arena.

New collectors from Russia, Hong Kong, mainland China, Singapore, Qatar and South America have also upped the ante, flush with cash and ready to create instant collections.

"We're seeing new buyers weekly who are prepared to spend anywhere from $1 million to $10 million," said Philip Hoffman, chief executive of The Fine Art Group, a London-based art investment house.   Continued...

<p>A Christie's employee poses for a photograph with artist Andy Warhol's "Self-Portrait" at Christie's auction house in London April 15, 2011. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor</p>