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Daimler May Make $16 Million From Auction of Koons Sculpture

"Balloon Flower (Blue)" (1995-2000) by Jeff Koons. It is being offered for auction from the corporate art collection of the German luxury car-maker Daimler AG at Christie's International in New York on Nov. 10. The pre-sale estimate is $12 million to $16 million. Source: Christie's Images via Bloomberg

Daimler AG, the world’s second-largest maker of luxury vehicles, is hoping to raise as much as $16 million from the November auction in New York of a Jeff Koons sculpture from its corporate art collection.

The chromium steel work, “Balloon Flower (Blue),” will be included in Christie’s International’s Nov. 10 contemporary-art sale, the London-based auction house said yesterday in an e-mail.

Daimler is sure to receive a minimum preset amount, courtesy of an unidentified third-party guarantor, said Christie’s. The low estimate is $12 million.

The 11-foot (3.3 meter) work was made by Koons in 1995-2000 as part of his “Celebration” series of high-tech sculptures inspired by children’s parties and lovers’ gifts.

One of five versions in different colors, it stood for many years in Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz. Daimler acquired the work directly from the artist. Proceeds from the sale will be used to develop the Daimler Art Collection, which comprises almost 2,000 works, Christie’s said.

Auction prices for Koons’s “Celebration” sculptures surged during the art boom. In November 2007, New York-based collector Adam Lindemann sold “Hanging Heart (Magenta/ Gold)” at Sotheby’s in New York for $23.6 million, an auction record for a living artist. He was reported to have bought the sculpture from the Gagosian Gallery for $4 million in 2005.

Rachofsky’s Flower

Another version of “Balloon Flower”, in magenta, was sold by Dallas-based collector Howard Rachofsky at Christie’s in London in June 2008, for an artist record of 12.9 million pounds (then $25.8 million). Both sellers were guaranteed minimum prices by the auction houses.

Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips de Pury & Co. announced at the end of 2008 that they themselves would no longer be offering minimum prices to sellers after several high-value guaranteed works failed in the last quarter. Guarantees are now making a limited comeback, through third parties.

An external guarantor has promised a minimum price to the Los Angeles-based seller of David Hockney’s 1978 watercolor, “Autumn Pool (Paper Pool 29)” at Phillips in London on Oct. 13. The six-part work, featured on the front cover of the catalog, is estimated to fetch at least 700,000 pounds.

Lindemann is another seller at Phillips’s Frieze Week auction. The New York-based collector has consigned a group of 13 works by younger German artists such as Jonathan Meese (born 1970), Anselm Reyle (born 1970) and Andre Butzer (born 1973).

“This is just a small selection from Adam Lindemann’s German material,” Phillips’s London-based specialist Henry Allsopp said in an interview. “He thought the chance to sell in an evening auction during Frieze Week was a good opportunity.”

Most of the works had been acquired from Berlin galleries within the last five years. The most highly valued is Reyle’s Koons-influenced purple chrome abstract sculpture, “Untitled.” Dating from 2006, it is estimated to sell for 100,000 pounds to 150,000 pounds.

The Lindemann lots aren’t guaranteed, Allsopp said.

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

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