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Frieze Targets New York; $32 Million Sculpture Found in Garden

Bronze Sculpture
A 17th-century bronze by Renaissance sculptor Adriaen de Vries. The unrecorded work, discovered last year in the garden of a castle in northern Europe, will be offered by Christie's International at an auction in London on July 7. Source: Christie's via Bloomberg

May 25 (Bloomberg) -- A 17th-century bronze found in a garden may fetch as much as $32 million at auction after being identified as a masterpiece by Dutch sculptor Adriaen de Vries.

The mythological figure supporting a globe has been hailed by dealers as a major discovery that is likely to fetch a record price for a pre-20th-century European sculpture at Christie’s International in London on July 7.

“It’s a magnificent work by one of the greatest sculptors of the period,” Stuart Lochhead, director of the London-based dealers Daniel Katz Ltd., said in an interview. “It could easily go for 15 or 20 million pounds to Qatar or Abu Dhabi.”

The bronze, found during a routine valuation at an unidentified castle in Northern Europe, has a formal estimate of 5 million pounds to 8 million pounds, Christie’s said.

“Our valuer was told not to forget the things in the garden,” Donald Johnston, Christie’s international head of sculpture, said in an interview. “‘I’ll get to the de Vries later,’ he joked. When he climbed a ladder and looked at the bronze, that was exactly the signature he found.”

The 3-foot, 7-inch (1.1 meter) statue has been cleaned of green oxidation caused by centuries of rain and is now waxed.

The globe held by the garlanded figure is thought to have been a later 17th-century addition.

De Vries was a late-renaissance sculptor who worked in Prague for the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II and his military commander Albrecht von Wallenstein. The latter commissioned a number of garden statues from the artist, of which this latest discovery, dated 1626, may have been one, Christie’s said.

Venus, Cupid

The record for an early European sculpture is the 6.9 million pounds paid for a late-15th-century Italian gilded bronze roundel of Mars, Venus, Cupid and Vulcan at Christie’s in December 2003.

The buyer was Sheikh Saud al Thani, cousin of the Emir of Qatar, dealers said.

Of later works, a limestone head by the 20th-century sculptor Amedeo Modigliani sold in Paris for 43.2 million euros ($53 million) in June last year.

Transatlantic Frieze

The Frieze Art Fair will be holding two new events next year on each side of the Atlantic.

Frieze New York, scheduled for May 3 to May 6, 2012, will feature about 170 international galleries offering contemporary works in a bespoke structure on Randall’s Island Park, overlooking the East River, the London-based fair said in an e-mailed statement.

Five months later, the organizers’ 10th annual edition of their fair in Regent’s Park -- known for its emphasis on works produced by younger contemporary artists -- will be complemented by Frieze Masters. The nearby sister event will feature about 70 dealers specializing in pieces dated before 2000.

“New York needed a good international fair,” said Anthony Wilkinson, partner in the London-based contemporary-art dealers Wilkinson. “The reason there hasn’t been one before is that there wasn’t really anywhere to do it. The genius of Frieze is they provide their own building. We’ll definitely be exhibiting.”

Randall’s Island is a 20-minute drive from Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The fair, timed to coincide with New York’s biannual series of contemporary-art auctions, will be held in a structure designed by the Brooklyn-based architects, SO-IL.

Frieze’s long-mooted move to New York, and its foray into more traditional collecting areas in London, add two more dates to what will be a busy 2012 art fair calendar.

Earlier this month, Art Basel said it had bought a majority stake in the Hong Kong International Art Fair and was moving next year’s edition from May to Feb. 2-5.

Globetrotting Buyers

Globetrotting contemporary-art enthusiasts will now have to choose between three Art Basels, two Friezes, the Armory Show in New York, Art Dubai, FIAC in Paris, ARCO in Madrid and as many as 100 other fairs and satellite events.

“There are too many fairs,” Todd Levin, a New York-based art adviser and curator, said in an interview. “Collectors are beginning to be fatigued by the circuit. Discretionary spending on art can only support a finite number of events.”

Frieze New York will be held two months after Manhattan’s Armory Show, which has been rejuvenated by the presence of international galleries such as Hauser & Wirth and White Cube.

“Frieze could pull some gravity from the Armory,” Levin said. “Dealers will have to decide whether they want to do both.”

In Europe, Frieze 2012 will be increasingly perceived as a competitor with Art Basel, which includes dealers that sell classic modernist works.

About 60 to 70 percent of the galleries exhibiting at Frieze Masters will deal in 20th-century material. The remainder will be an eclectic mix of specialists in Old Masters, antiquities and other more traditional collecting areas, said Victoria Siddall, director of the new London fair.

“We want to make Frieze week a destination for collectors, whatever their interest. We’ll present older works in a contemporary way and show the thread that runs through the history of art,” Siddall said.

(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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