Warhol’s $9 Million Blondie, Hirst’s Rock Gift Boost Sales

Debbie Harry by Andy Warhol
The 1980 acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas ``Debbie Harry'' by Andy Warhol. Measuring 42 inches wide, was owned by a private European collector and sold for 3.7 million pounds. Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg.

June 6 (Bloomberg) -- Andy Warhol’s portrait of Blondie singer Debbie Harry, and Damien Hirst spot paintings owned by Eurythmics star Dave Stewart, were today added to this month’s auction test of the contemporary-art market’s recovery.

The fruits of the rockers’ friendships with artists, to be offered by Sotheby’s in London on June 29, may fetch as much as $11.3 million. Harry, quoted in an e-mailed release by the New York-based auction house, said her portrait -- estimated at as much as $9 million -- came about after she met Warhol on Broadway in the late 1970s and they got to know each other.

“New York was a small community,” Harry is quoted by Cheyenne Westphal, Sotheby’s European head of contemporary art. “We chatted about everything. I got invited to the Factory and knew others that worked for Andy.”

Contemporary prices have been recovering after values of artists such as Hirst and Jeff Koons halved in 2009 during the financial crisis. Warhol has been seen as a safe haven for investment-minded collectors. He has become the most heavily traded contemporary artist at auction, accounting for 17 percent of all sales in 2010, according to a report by the London-based research company ArtTactic published in April.

Harry posed for one of the Pop artist’s trademark celebrity portraits. The Sotheby’s item is one of four he made of her, each 42 inches (1 meter) wide. With a formal estimate of 3.5 million pounds ($5.75 million) to 5.5 million pounds, the 1980 silkscreen is offered by a private European collector. Its sale follows the release of Blondie’s CD “Panic of Girls.”

Dockland Drunks

Songwriter and producer Stewart will be offering seven works in the auction. He met Hirst at the opening of a group exhibition in London’s Docklands in the early 1990s.

“They were giving away Beck’s beer, and so we both got really drunk,’’ Stewart said in an interview in the U.K.’s Independent newspaper in 1994. “He was incredibly confrontational. Funny. Exciting. By the end we were under the table -- had about 12 bottles each.’’

The 1994 spot painting “Dantrolene (Being God for Dave)’’ was gifted to Stewart by Hirst, who wrote a dedication on the back of the canvas. This is estimated to fetch between 600,000 pounds and 800,000 pounds. “Acridine,’’ dating from 1992 and bought directly from the artist, is valued at 400,000 pounds to 600,000 pounds. Both canvases measure more than 5 feet wide.

Fewer works by Hirst, the U.K.’s wealthiest artist, now appear at auction than during the boom. Individual prices for some works have returned to the levels of three years ago. In February, Christie’s International sold a 6-foot-wide 1994 spot painting for 881,250 pounds. A slightly larger example, dating from 1992, reached 825,250 pounds at Phillips de Pury & Co. in London in June 2008.

Stewart is also selling works by Gilbert & George, Angus Fairhurst and Andres Serrano, valued at between 12,000 pounds and 200,000 pounds.

Latin American Art

London gets its turn to catch up on the boom in Latin American art as more than 50 dealers exhibit at an international fair starting today.

The U.K. is getting its second edition of Pinta, which aims to entice rich collectors. The event started in the U.S. in 2007 and has an equivalent New York show in November. The dealers plan to build on the momentum created last month in Sao Paulo by the 7th edition of SP-Arte, Brazil’s biggest contemporary art fair, and by the record total of $21.7 million achieved at Sotheby’s May 25 auction of Latin American art in New York.

Brazilian Growth

Latin America is seen by many investment-minded collectors as one of the key growth areas in the contemporary-art market, said dealers. In 2008-2009, as demand and prices for other works in the U.S. and Europe slumped, the Brazilian auction market increased 38 percent, according to ArtTactic.

“Sao Paulo was very busy with lots of sales taking place, mainly with Brazilian galleries,” said Ana Varella, head of art advisory and development at the recently created $24 million Brazil Golden Art (BGA) Fund, who is flying over from the Venice Biennale to be at the London fair.

The event will combine established names such the Cuban abstract painter Carmen Herrera, with emerging artists such as the Brazilian Felipe Barbosa, who uses soccer balls as his medium.

London’s Stephen Friedman Gallery, New York’s Tanya Bonakdar Gallery and Galeria Fortes Vilaca from Sao Paulo have combined to show a conceptual piece by the Brazilian artist Rivane Neuenschwander. “Prosopopeia” is a series of games made from edible and organic materials that allow words to be formed and re-arranged.

The New York gallerist Josee Bienvenu will be showing the Guatemalan artist Dario Escobar.

Pinta is at Earls Court Exhibition Centre, Brompton Hall, Warwick Road, London SW5 9TA, through June 9. Information: http://www.pintaart.com/

(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 sreyburn@hotmail.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Beech at mbeech@bloomberg.net.