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Art Price Rise at $175 Million Auction Puts Market Back at Peak

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"Telefonierender" (1965) by Gerhard Richter. The canvas is one of the works from the 1960s and 1970s being sold by the pharmaceutical executive Christian Graf Duerckheim-Ketelholdt at Sotheby's in London on June 29 and June 30. It fetched 3.2 million pounds. Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg

June 30 (Bloomberg) -- Dealers hailed a recovery in the market for contemporary art last night after the biggest auction held in London.

The 88-lot Sotheby’s sale raised 108.8 million pounds ($175 million), helped by 60.4 million pounds for 34 works from the Duerckheim Collection of German art.

Growing confidence among collectors in an increasingly international market has boosted demand, defying concerns in the wider economy. This has encouraged owners, such as Christian Graf Duerckheim-Ketelhodt, to release high-value works for sale.

“Some artists’ prices are now higher than they were in 2007,” the New York dealer Stellan Holm said. “The buying is a lot more intelligent than it was in the boom. People aren’t just buying brands and not everything is flying out of the window. It’s a lot better than 2009, though.”

Five records were set for artists, including Georg Baselitz and Sigmar Polke, among the works sold by the chairman of the Cologne-based pharmaceutical company Axiogenesis AG.

“In terms of quality and range, Duerckheim’s was the best collection of 1960s German works to have come on the market,” said San Francisco dealer Anthony Meier, who bought a 2.1 million-pound Gerhard Richter painting for a client. “Estimates were reasonable, prices were buoyant.”

Polke’s 1967 oil of a sunset, “Dschungel” (Jungle) -- the largest of the artist’s “Rasterbilder” (dot paintings) to appear at auction -- was the star of the collection. Measuring 8 feet (2.4 meters) wide, it sold to a telephone bidder for 5.8 million pounds, beating an upper estimate of 4 million pounds.

Top Baselitz

The top Baselitz was a 1965 painting of a male figure, “Spekulatius,” bought by New York’s Acquavella Galleries for 3.2 million pounds.

Richter’s 1974 color chart “1024 Farben” sold to the New York-based dealer Christophe van de Weghe, bidding for a client, for 4.3 million pounds, more than double the upper estimate.

All but one of the Duerckheim lots found buyers, generating a total that was almost double the low estimate of 31.8 million pounds.

In the mixed-owner sale, Eurythmics musician Dave Stewart sold a 1994 Damien Hirst spot painting “Dantrolene (Being God for Dave).” The artist had given Stewart the canvas, with a dedication on the back. The work made 1.1 million pounds, against an estimate of as much as 800,000 pounds.

An Andy Warhol 1980 silk screen portrait of Blondie singer Debbie Harry made a low-estimate 3.7 million pounds.

Francis Bacon’s 1961 “Crouching Nude” sold for 8.3 million pounds to a telephone bidder. It was valued at 7 million pounds to 9 million pounds.

The sale was estimated to raise 74 million pounds to 105.4 million pounds at hammer prices. During the financial crisis, when the values of some artists halved, Sotheby’s took just 17.9 million pounds at its equivalent offering in February 2009.

(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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