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Price Warning Issued Before $169 Million Warhol, Hirst Art Sale

The trio of Andy Warhol silkscreen paintings,
The trio of Andy Warhol silkscreen paintings, "Three Jackies." offered in Sotheby's June 28 sale of contemporary art. Dating from 1964 and never offered at auction before, they were estimated to fetch between 1.5 million pounds and 2 million pounds. The selling price was on the low estimate of 1.5 million pounds. Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg

June 28 (Bloomberg) -- Contemporary art has become a more risky investment, according to a survey published before the next big test of the auction market starting today.

Research company ArtTactic’s findings raise concern at the sustainability of the recovery in prices after recent sale flops. Works by Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst will be among 112.4 million pounds ($169 million) of art on offer from this evening in London.

The survey’s Risk Barometer jumped 22 percent on concerns over the short-term economic outlook. Fifty-five percent of 138 contemporary-art collectors and professionals see little improvement over the next six months, ArtTactic said, though overall confidence was 4.2 percent higher than in December 2009.

“The recovery of the art market is on,” Anders Petterson, founder and managing director of ArtTactic, said in an interview. “Economic realities look as though they’re going to slow that recovery. This is going to be a tough five years going forward and wealthy collectors aren’t oblivious to what’s happening.”

Trophy works at Sotheby’s and Christie’s International’s evening sales of Impressionist and modern art last week struggled to realize expectations that were raised by recent auction records for Alberto Giacometti, Pablo Picasso and Amedeo Modigliani.

An Edouard Manet self portrait fell to a single bid of 22.4 million pounds at Sotheby’s on June 22. At Christie’s the following evening, a ‘Blue Period’ Picasso sold within estimate for 34.8 million pounds and a Claude Monet water lily painting, valued as much as 40 million pounds, failed. There was less buying from clients in the emerging economies, both auction houses said after their sales.

Fewer Asian Bids

“There was some activity from Asia, but it was mostly bottom-fishing,” the Paris-based dealer Christian Ogier, who specializes in 20th century Chinese art. “It was very surprising. There was a lot of Asian bidding in New York in May,” said Ogier, who was monitoring the telephone bids taken by Sotheby’s and Christie’s Hong Kong-based specialists at the London sales.

This week the focus shifts to contemporary art, beginning tonight at Sotheby’s, where 53 lots are expected to raise at least 38.3 million pounds.

The improved volume of sales earlier this month at the annual Art Basel fair in Switzerland was reminiscent of pre-crisis levels, said dealers, though individual prices often remained lower than in 2007 and 2008.

Hirst Cabinet

London gallery White Cube sold a new Hirst jewel cabinet, priced at 2.35 million pounds, at Basel. In 2008, at the zenith of the art boom, a similar cabinet fetched 5.2 million pounds at the 111.5-million-pound Hirst auction at Sotheby’s.

“Business was brisk at Art Basel, though maybe not at the same levels as two or three years ago,” said Petterson, who was in the record crowd of 62,500 at the event.

Estimates at London’s June contemporary-art auctions continue to reflect a market in recovery. Warhol was the most exhibited artist at Art Basel and Sotheby’s is offering four works by him in tonight’s evening sale.

His 1964 triptych of 20-inch-high silkscreens, “Three Jackies,” showing the First Lady after President Kennedy’s death, carries a low estimate of 1.5 million pounds. The trio of canvases has been owned by the same collector since 1980 and never been offered at auction before, said Sotheby’s.

In October 2007, a single “Jackie” of the same date and dimensions sold at auction for 1.75 million pounds.

‘Silver Liz’

A Warhol painting of Elizabeth Taylor, “Silver Liz,” estimated at as much as 8 million pounds, is on offer at Christie’s on June 30.

A 2005 mixed-media work by Matthew Day Jackson is among the pieces by selected younger artists. The multicolored 12-foot-wide “Phoenix (Peace Eagle),” showing the mythological bird stretching its wings over an urban scrapheap, is among the 63 works Christie’s is offering on June 30. It carries an estimate of 200,000 pounds to 300,000 pounds.

The U.S.-born Jackson shot to prominence in February when his 2007 oval canvas “Bucky” sold for a record 601,250 pounds ($891,293) at a Christie’s auction in London.

Foil reliefs and stripe paintings by the German artist Anselm Reyle were a familiar feature at auctions and art fairs during the recent boom. Since then, prices for Reyle, like many other heavily traded contemporary artists, have fallen. Phillips de Pury & Co. will be including the 2006 silver foil relief, “Untitled,” in its June 29 evening auction with a low estimate of 70,000 pounds.

An identically sized silver relief by Reyle, from 2005, was sold by Phillips in 2008 for 157,250 pounds.

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Scott Reyburn in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Beech at

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