Records tumble at Christie's art sale

Tue Feb 7, 2012 7:25pm EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Christie's on Tuesday kicked off a fortnight of major London art sales with a bang, hitting or exceeding the most optimistic pre-sale expectations and extending 2011's record-breaking run into the new year.

At its impressionist and modern evening sale, the world's largest auctioneer sold works worth 97.8 million pounds ($155 million), which was toward the top end of estimates.

The Art of the Surreal auction raised an additional 37.2 million pounds ($59 million), well above the valuation range of 19.6-29.1 million pounds, although the total included buyers' premiums whereas pre-sale estimates did not.

According to preliminary figures, Christie's overall sold art worth 135.0 million pounds (slightly under $214 million), topping the high estimate of 127.1 million pounds as the London art world enters a two-week period of auctions that are off to a strong start.

British sculptor Henry Moore was the night's top lot. His "Reclining Figure: Festival" soared to 19.1 million pounds ($30.3 million) compared with pre-sale estimates of 3.5-5.5 million. Christie's said it was an auction record for the artist.

In the surreal section, Christie's also smashed the auction record for Spanish painter Joan Miro when "Painting-Poem" went for 16.8 million pounds ($26.6 million), double its estimate.

Vincent Van Gogh's "Vue de l'asile et de la Chapelle de Saint-Remy", from the collection of the late Hollywood actress Elizabeth Taylor, raised 10.1 million pounds ($16 million) versus expectations of 5.0-7.0 million.

"As the crown jewel of her art collection, we are delighted with the price achieved for Van Gogh's 'Vue de l'asile', a profoundly beautiful work from one of creative high points of the artist's career," Marc Porter, Chairman of Christie's Americas, said in a statement.   Continued...