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Wine Auctions Set for Record on Asia; Picasso Sells: Art Buzz

A selection of vintages of Chateau Lafite. They are included in Sotheby's two-day auction. A 12-bottle case of the 1982 vintage is expected to fetch up to 26,000 pounds. Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg
A selection of vintages of Chateau Lafite. They are included in Sotheby's two-day auction. A 12-bottle case of the 1982 vintage is expected to fetch up to 26,000 pounds. Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg

Sept. 18 (Bloomberg) -- International wine sales at the three main auction houses look set to reach a record $200 million in 2010 as Asia’s thirst for fine French vintages pushes up prices.

The total at Sotheby’s, Christie’s International and specialist auction house Acker Merrall & Condit will likely be double last year’s figure, as Hong Kong becomes a global hub of the market. Demand from China and other countries in Asia is strongest for trophy-label red Bordeaux.

“It’s partly aspirational,” Serena Sutcliffe, head of Sotheby’s wine department, said in an interview. “Wine is part of the luxury Western lifestyle and Asians feel they’ve missed out. They’re also passionate about food, and wine is an obvious follow-on. It’s also become an important part of the culture of business entertaining.”

Acker is offering the largest-ever consignment from a Chinese collector, as well as wines from the cellar of collector Wilfred Jaeger from San Francisco, at its two-day “East Meets West” auction in Hong Kong continuing today. The auction may fetch more than HK$50 million ($6.4 million), it said.

Acker raised $48 million at events in New York and Hong Kong in the first half of 2010. The total is more than 10 percent higher than that achieved in the whole of 2009, the company said in an e-mailed statement. Its “Imperial Cellar” sale in Hong Kong in May raised HK$152 million, a record for a wine auction in Asia.

“It most likely will mark the point in time where Hong Kong became the largest wine market in the world,” the company said in the statement.

Anniversary Sale

Asians, many bidding via the Internet, as well as U.K.- based Russians, may help generate as much as 2 million pounds ($3.1 million) of sales at Sotheby’s Sept. 22 and Sept. 23 auction in London. The event celebrates the 40th anniversary of its first wine offering. In that inaugural season, beginning in September 1970, the company held three events in the U.K. capital. In 2010 it is scheduled to hold as many as 20 selections in Britain, the U.S. and China, the New York-based auction house said in an e-mailed statement.

Sotheby’s wine sales raised $37.3 million in the first half of 2010, with all eight of the most expensive lots falling to Asian private buyers. Hong Kong-based events generated 52 percent of the total. The company’s equivalent first-half sales last year totaled $19.2 million.

The centerpiece of the anniversary sale is a lot containing bottles of all but one of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild’s vintages from 1945 to 2003, estimated at 15,000 pounds to 20,000 pounds.

Chateau Lafite

The most highly valued of the event’s 1,308 lots is a 12-bottle case of the 1982 vintage Chateau Lafite, a favorite label for Asian buyers, with an upper estimate of 26,000 pounds. In July at Sotheby’s, an Asian private collector paid 36,800 pounds for a case of the same vintage.

Twenty-eight percent of Sotheby’s first-half wine sales took place in London, with the remaining 20 percent generated by New York. In 2005, three years before the Hong Kong government scrapped import duty on wine, encouraging auctions, New York hosted 63.8 percent of the company’s sales.

“Transporting wine is no longer a problem,” Sutcliffe said. “A lot of great collections from the U.S. have gone to Hong Kong. Sales will continue to grow in Asia for the foreseeable future.”

Next month, Sotheby’s Hong Kong will be selling almost 2,000 bottles of Lafite, spanning 139 years, shipped directly from the cellars of the chateau. The Oct. 29 auction is expected to raise as much as HK$20 million.

Christie’s first-half wine sales for 2010 totaled 13 million pounds, the London-based auction house said in an e-mail. Its sale in Hong Kong of the Bordeaux collection formed by the Korean-based company SK Networks Co. today is expected to add at least HK$26 million to the running total.

Le Mans Jaguar

A Jaguar car of the type that won the Le Mans 24-Hours race in 1951 and 1953 failed to sell last night at an auction in Sussex. It had been estimated to fetch between 800,000 pounds and 1.2 million pounds.

The most valuable lot at a Bonhams auction of 79 classic cars and one airplane, the pale blue car had been reconstructed using components of the original chassis of a Jaguar that crashed in the 1953 Mille Miglia round-Italy race, killing its French driver.

The Goodwood Revival auction, which included a 257-lot section of automobilia, totaled 2.7 million pounds against a low estimate of 6 million pounds, with 68 percent of the lots successful, said Bonhams.

Duchess’s Jaguar

The most expensive car was a 1949 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Super Sport Cabriolet that sold for 188,500 pounds with fees. A 1988 Jaguar XJ-S V12 convertible formerly owned by Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, fetched 23,000 pounds. Both prices were within presale estimates.

The Historic Automobile Group International (HAGI), a London-based independent research company, said its index of exceptional classic-car prices has fallen 1.18 percent in 2010.

“Prices have increased at an annual rate of 12 percent in recent years,” Dietrich Hatlapa, HAGI’s founder and managing director, said in an interview. “You could say that for the year so far the market is performing below average. It’s going sideways. Buyers know exactly what they want to spend.”

Picasso Sale

A Pablo Picasso etching set a record auction price for any print by the artist when it fetched 1.3 million pounds ($2 million) at a Sept. 16 sale in London.

Picasso’s 1935 etching, “La Minotauromachie,” an allegory inspired by the Spanish-born artist’s affair with Marie-Therese Walter, had been estimated to sell for as much as 600,000 pounds. The work was one of 58 pieces entered by an unidentified European collector. It was bought by a bidder in the salesroom.

Edvard Munch remains the world’s most expensive printmaker. In November 2007, the Norwegian artist’s 1895 to 1902 woodcut and lithograph “Vampire II” was offered at the Oslo auction house Grev Wedels Plass. It sold for 14.2 million Norwegian kroner (then $2.2 million), including 20 percent fees, auction house co-owner Hans Richard Elgheim said in an interview.

Another version of Munch’s “Vampire II” from the unidentified European collector sold yesterday for 802,850 pounds at Sotheby’s.

(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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