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Last updated: May 12, 2008 6:16 am
All eyes are on New York this week as the richest offering of contemporary art ever to hit the auction block comes up for sale. Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips will hammer down a combined total of 1,322 artworks, worth in excess of £500m. Can they sell them all? Results at recent art fairs have been less than stellar, with sales at Art Chicago and Art Cologne reportedly down. Observers detect some pre-sale jitters in the salerooms but, says Brett Gorvy, Christie’s deputy chairman: “What we are seeing is a very selective market, with buyers wanting the ‘masterpiece’, high-value works and that is the message we have been giving vendors to encourage them to sell now. And this is what we are offering this week.”
Speaking of Warhol, who is one of the very few globally recognised “brand names” in art, Christie’s is taking a giant Warhol portrait of Mao for sale in Hong Kong. The 14-foot silkscreen is priced “in the region of” £60m, an enormous price even if you think that Warhol’s 1963 “Green Car Crash” made £35.5m last year in New York. The portrait is the centrepiece in an exhibition of “Mao by Andy Warhol” being held in conjunction with the New York gallery L&M Arts in the Hong Kong Convention centre, May 22-29.
Christie’s owner and luxury-goods mogul François Pinault is selling a majority shareholding in the French auction group Piasa, which he bought in 2000. A group of investors, bankers and French personalities including ex-prime minister Laurent Fabius and Hermès chief executive Christian Blanckaert has acquired 60% of the firm from Artemis, Pinault’s holding company. “The investors are all involved in one way or another with collecting and the art market,” said Piasa president Jacques Babonneau. No financial details of the deal have been revealed. In 2003, Pinault’s arch-rival and fellow luxury goods tycoon, LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault, sold the French auction house Tajan, which he had bought three years earlier.
Iranian artists are the hottest commodity in the booming market for Middle Eastern art, to judge by Christie’s recent sale in Dubai. This made over £20m and delivered a raft of record prices for Iranians, including £2.4m for Parviz Tanavoli and £1.3m for Charles Hossein Zeneroudi. Mohammed Ehsai and Farhad Moshiri were others to make high prices. Buyers at the sale, according to Christie’s, were 77% from the Middle East and Iran and 17% from Europe. “Iran has an ancient artistic tradition, and being an artist there has long been more accepted than in some other countries of the Arab world,” says Mona Hauser, owner of Gallery XVA in Dubai, currently showing Cy Twombly with his disciple, the Iranian artist and gallerist Fereydoun Ave (until June 1).
A provincial auction house in County Durham is an unlikely place to find works by the Indian artist Jamini Roy. But next Saturday Addisons Auctioneers will put nine works under the hammer at prices between £1,000 and £30,000. Roy painted brightly coloured, naïve depictions of local people and animals which were popular with both Indians and the European community in India in the mid-20th century.
Georgina Adam is editor-at-large of The Art Newspaper
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