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Avid New Buyers Fuel Record-Breaking London Sales

Impressionist, modern and contemporary art soared during a weeklong series of London auctions at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips, de Pury & Company, yielding dozens of new artists’ records at auction and totals that far surpassed those of previous seasons.

NEW YORK—Impressionist, modern and contemporary art soared during a weeklong series of London auctions at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips, de Pury & Company, yielding dozens of new artists’ records at auction and totals that far surpassed those of previous seasons.

Impressionist and modern art sales at Sotheby’s and Christie’s from Feb. 5-7 yielded £233 million ($454 million), up more than £100 million from the £130 million ($228.2 million) total of last February (ANL, 2/14/06). Auctions of postwar and contemporary art at Sotheby’s and Christie’s from Feb 7-9 totaled £153.4 million ($299 million), compared with £89.7 million ($156.3 million) a year-ago February (ANL, 2/28/06). Christie’s reports a total of £199.8 million ($392 million) for its sales; and Sotheby’s, £186.6 million ($365 million). Phillips, de Pury & Company’s London sale of Western and Chinese contemporary art on Feb. 6 realized £5.3 million ($10.4 million).

At the Christie’s auctions, the house says, 42 lots were sold for more than £1 million each, and 17 artists’ records were set. Jussi Pylkkänen, president of Christie’s, Europe, calls it “the strongest-ever sales week in the history of the London market.” He further points out that “the effect of new buyers from the markets of Russia, the C.I.S. [Commonwealth of Independent States, or ex-Soviet states], Asia and the Middle East cannot be understated.”

Sotheby’s executives are equally enthusiastic. Robin Woodhead, Sotheby’s CEO of Europe and Asia, observes that the sales “reestablished London’s preeminence as a hub of the global art market, with an ability to attract collectors from all over the world. . . . Throughout the week our experts noted the exceptional depth of the market.” A total of 26 records was set at Sotheby’s, including an artist’s high for Chaïm Soutine and a record for any photograph sold at auction when two 2001 Cibachrome prints by Andreas Gursky, entitled 99 Cent II, Diptych, fetched £1.7 million ($3.35 million).

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