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Warhol Portrait of Gaunt Self Fetches $32.6 Million in N.Y.

"Self Portrait" by Andy Warhol. The piece is estimated to sell for $10 million to $15 million. Photographer: Ramin Talaie/Bloomberg

May 13 (Bloomberg) -- A purple Andy Warhol portrait of himself looking wild-haired and gaunt fetched $32.6 million at a New York auction last night, twice the work’s presale estimate, as buyers sought rare art amid financial-market volatility.

The nine-square-foot 1986 “Self-Portrait,” completed a year before the artist’s death, was offered by fashion designer Tom Ford and went to an unidentified buyer. The silkscreen ink, acrylic paint on canvas was the priciest item of Sotheby’s 53-lot sale that tallied $190 million, against the company’s presale estimate of $161.8 million. Just three lots were unsold.

“Self Portrait” ranks among the three most-expensive works by Warhol sold at auction and is the costliest of his latter-year works. The record was the $71.1 million paid in 2007 in New York for his 1963 “Green Car Crash.”

“People are willing to break (price) boundaries with late Warhols,” said Tobias Meyer, Sotheby’s chief auctioneer and head of the contemporary-art department, after the sale.

Yesterday’s sale brings the two-week total of Sotheby’s and rival Christie’s International’s New York Impressionist, modern and contemporary auctions to nearly $1.1 billion.

The auctions began last week when the U.S. stock market had its biggest drop since February and the euro fell below $1.30 for the first time in a year amid concern about Greece’s debt. Yesterday’s 1.4 percent gain in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, coupled with Monday’s stock rally, wiped out those losses.

This evening, Phillips de Pury & Co. will offer artworks from the collection of CNET Networks Inc. founder Halsey Minor.

‘Tough Week’

Commenting on the auction results, New York dealer David Nash of Mitchell-Innes & Nash said it had been “a tough week” for art buyers and a boon for sellers.

Sotheby’s sale last night, held at the company’s York Avenue salesroom, was attended by a young, Louboutin-wearing set. Many of the bids were placed in person, unlike last week’s Impressionist and modern art auctions where top works were bought over the phone.

Among those in the stylish crowd was fashion designer Valentino Garavani, who bid on a Cecily Brown painting from the front row. It went for $1.1 million to a telephone bidder.

“This was a nice steady evening,” said art adviser Todd Levin.

Mark Rothko’s nearly 8-foot-tall 1961 “Untitled,” estimated to fetch $18 million to $25 million, went to an unidentified phone bidder for $31.4 million.

Rothko’s ‘Red’

The canvas was the subject of controversy this week as Dallas collector Marguerite Hoffman filed a lawsuit against several defendants, including fellow collector David Martinez, whom she accused of failing to keep secret her 2007 sale of the painting to him.

Sotheby’s, also named in the suit, said the case has no merit. The company’s spokeswoman Diana Phillips said Hoffman’s lawsuit doesn’t challenge the seller’s title to the artwork nor his right to sell it.

Also hot in demand: a trio of paintings by Jean Michel Basquiat, consigned to the sale direct from the artist’s estate. “Untitled (Stardust)” depicting a jazz saxophonist sold for $7.3 million, beating the $2.5 million presale estimate.

Sotheby’s charges buyers 25 percent of the hammer price up to $50,000, plus 20 percent from $50,000 to $1 million, plus 12 percent above $1 million.

To contact the reporters on the story: Lindsay Pollock in New York at lindsaypollock@yahoo.com; Philip Boroff in New York at pboroff@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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