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Gagosian Buys Warhol Portrait in $99 Million Auction

Andy Warhol Self Portrait
A 1967 silkscreen self-portrait by Andy Warhol sold for 10.8 million pounds. It was estimated to sell for between 3 million pounds and 5 million pounds in a contemporary-art auction at Christie's International in London on Feb. 16, 2011. The 6-foot-high painting was entered from the estate of a U.S. collector and had never been offered at auction before. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd. 2011 via Bloomberg.

A rediscovered Andy Warhol self portrait that hadn’t been seen in public for more than 30 years last night helped a London sale raise the highest total in the U.K. capital since June 2008.

Christie’s International made 61.4 million pounds ($99 million) with fees as the auction market for contemporary art continued its rehabilitation process. Dealer Larry Gagosian, bidding in the room, paid 10.8 million pounds for the crimson acrylic and silkscreen Warhol portrait, dating from 1967.

Buyers from a widening geographical range are joining sales as the value of contemporary works rises. Bidders came from 21 different countries, said Christie’s.

“More wealthy people are diversifying their assets and putting 5 percent into art,” the Montreal-based collector Francois Odermatt said. “A lot more of them are buying for their own private museums. There’s now a market for big works.”

Warhol’s 6-foot square portrait was estimated to fetch a hammer price of as much as 5 million pounds. Gagosian was underbid by Andreas Rumbler of Christie’s on the phone and New York collector and dealer Jose Mugrabi, also in the room.

The painting, showing the Pop artist looking pensive with his hand over his mouth, was one of a series of 11 large-scale self portraits, five of which are now in museums, including the Detroit Museum of Arts and the U.K.’s Tate collection. Offered by what the London-based auction house described as “an American estate,” it had been acquired from Warhol’s New York dealer, Leo Castelli, in 1974.

Koons’s Bears

The sale tested demand for art-boom favorite Jeff Koons. The 1988 wood sculpture, “Winter Bears,” from his acclaimed “Banality” series, was also new to auction. One from an edition of four, it was acquired by its European seller from the New York-based dealership Deitch Projects in 1994. It sold for a mid-estimate 3 million pounds to a telephone bid from Christie’s New York-based Amy Cappellazzo. Another version was donated to the U.K. nation by the former London dealer Anthony d’Offay in 2008 and has been displayed at Tate Modern, London.

Matthew Day Jackson’s 2007 painting “Bucky II” was sold for a below-estimate 79,250 pounds. Odermatt said in an e-mail that his wife, Isabelle, was the buyer. It was a smaller version of the portrait of the engineer Buckminster Fuller that U.K.- based jeweler Laurence Graff bought for a record 601,250 pounds at Christie’s, London, in 2010.

“It’s a hard market to read,” London dealer Simon Lee said. “One minute an artist is hot, the next not. The mini-cycles turn quickly. Gerhard Richter remains strong, though.”

Richter’s Abstract

Richter’s 1990 blue-hued “Abstraktes Bild” sold for a double-estimate 3.2 million pounds to Sandra Nedvetskaia, a Zurich-based Christie’s employee who looks after Russian clients. The seller bought the painting for 657,600 pounds at Christie’s, London, in June 2005 -- an investment that has increased more than four-fold in less than six years.

The most expensive of six artist records set during the evening was the 4.1 million pounds paid by the New York and London dealers Eykyn Maclean for the 1962 work “L’annee derniere a Capri (titre exotique)” by the French painter Martial Raysse.

The Pop-period portrait of the artist’s girlfriend hadn’t been seen on the market for 30 years and had a high estimate of 1.5 million pounds. The price was an auction record for a living French artist.

A total of 58 of the 63 lots were successful at an event estimated to make as much as 51.8 million pounds. Christie’s auction in June 2008, held at the height of the art boom, raised 86.2 million pounds.

(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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