The CPI must have replaced Picassos with Elvises on velvet


Art World Abuzz
as New York Is Set
for Billion-Dollar
Auction Season

By Catherine Hours
Agence France-Presse
Sunday, November 5, 2006

NEW YORK -- The art world is anxiously eyeing a series of impressionist and modern art auctions in New York this month, with expectations high that interest in the flourishing market will set records tumbling.

If the estimates prove correct, the sales could see more than one billion dollars' worth of art go under the hammer for the first time in a season.

With works by Pablo Picasso and Gustav Klimt among the highlights, the sales come at the end of a busy year for the sector, with the record for the highest amount ever paid for a single painting being broken twice since June.

Christie's is to hold its impressionist and modern art sale on Wednesday, with estimates of the total value of works ranging from 340 million to 490 million dollars.

One of the highlights of the evening is "Adele Bloch-Bauer II," a 1912 portrait by Austrian symbolist Klimt that was confiscated by the Nazis during World War II and returned to the owners' heir earlier this year.

It carries an estimate of 40 million to 60 million dollars. An earlier version of the painting, "Adele Bloch-Bauer I," broke records when it was sold at auction earlier this year in New York for 135 million dollars.

Picasso's 1903 work "Portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto," bought by popular musical composer Andrew Lloyd Webber's foundation for 29 million dollars just over a decade ago, is expected to reach between 40 million and 60 million dollars.

Paul Gauguin's "Man with an Axe" is expected to reach up to 45 million dollars and is described by the auction house as one of the most important works by the French post-impressionist to come up for sale in 25 years.

Sotheby's sale of impressionist and modern works on Tuesday, while not boasting such valuable works, nevertheless includes a Paul Cezanne still life with an upper estimate of 35 million dollars and one of Claude Monet's series of beach scenes from Trouville, expected to reach up to 20 million dollars.

Sellers' expectations are high, in a bullish market fed by seriously wealthy buyers from around the world.

While Japanese buyers fueled the art boom of the 1980s and Russian and Chinese collectors have emerged in recent years, the latest private buyer to hit the headlines was Mexican financier David Martinez.

The discreet New York businessman was reported to have snapped up one of Jackson Pollock's trademark drip paintings for around 140 million dollars in a private sale last week, putting contemporary works firmly in the spotlight.

Christie's sale of contemporary and post-war art on November 15 and 16 features an Andy Warhol portrait of Marilyn Monroe expected to reach up to 15 million dollars and one of Mao Zedong estimated at nine million to 12 million dollars.

And among the highlights of Sotheby's sale of contemporary work on November 14 will be works by American abstract expressionist Willem De Kooning.

Gilbert Edelson of the Art Dealers Association of America said the contemporary works were causing the biggest buzz in the market, which he said was experiencing an exciting run.

"There seems to be a great deal of power in the art market. Prices have been going up, especially with post-war material," he said.

Edelson said the diminishing number of impressionist and post-impressionist works available had pointed a younger generation of buyers towards later works.

"That new generation, many of whom have made their money relatively recently, are putting their money into post-war contemporary art. That's the part of the market that is really very active," he added.

While he acknowledged that there were always speculative buyers in the market, he said he believed much of the current boom was due to collectors with a genuine passion for art.

"There are people who have two things: an interest in art and money," Edelson said.

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