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Beatle’s $600,000 Ferrari on Sale; Art-Market Confidence Rises

Ferrari 365 GTC
A 1969 Ferrari 365 GTC. The Italian sports car, formerly owned by George Harrison of The Beatles, is being offered for sale by the Ascot-based Ferrari specialist dealers Talacrest. Source: Talacrest via Bloomberg

A Ferrari 365 GTC is for sale priced at 375,000 pounds ($600,000) after its owner discovered that the car once belonged to the musician George Harrison.

A search of registration records showed that the blue coupe had been bought new by the Beatle for 4,000 pounds in 1969, according to the present seller, U.K. classic-Ferrari specialist Talacrest. The car inspired Harrison’s friend, fellow guitarist Eric Clapton, to become a Ferrari collector.

“I’d never seen one in the flesh before and my heart melted,” Clapton wrote of the car in his autobiography. “It was like seeing the most beautiful woman on earth.” Even though he could not drive at the time, he soon acquired the first of several Ferraris, also for 4,000 pounds. Harrison sold his GTC in the mid-1970s.

Some exceptional cars are making record prices at auctions, especially those with links to celebrities. A 400GT 2+2 Lamborghini described as being owned by Paul McCartney fetched 122,500 pounds earlier this month. Last October, RM Auctions sold a 1972 Lamborghini Miura, whose first owner was the singer Rod Stewart, for 694,400 pounds, beating an upper forecast of 560,000 pounds.

Art Confidence

Optimism in some parts of the art market has returned to the boom time levels of May 2007, according to a survey published last night. The biannual ArtTactic Confidence Indicator for the U.S. and European contemporary-art markets stands at 74, an 8.3 percent increase on December 2010 and its fifth straight increase.

The survey of 130 collectors and market professionals comes after increased demand at auctions in New York and London and at fairs such as Art Basel. Wealthy individuals, concerned about possible recession, are buying art in the hope that it is a “non-correlated” asset, the survey said.

Still, the ArtTactic Risk Barometer rose 12.6 percent to the same level as May 2008, shortly before the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. About 70 percent of respondents saw economic uncertainty as the greatest threat to the art market.

“Art being sold as a store of value should carry a warning,” Anders Petterson, founder of the London-based research company, said in an interview. “There’s a handful of top works by established blue-chip artists that wouldn’t be affected by a crisis. Otherwise, if something happens, there will be an overall market contraction. I don’t think it will be much different from last time.”

In 2009, prices of some heavily traded living artists slumped by as much as 50 percent. Since then, Sotheby’s and Christie’s International contemporary-art auctions have been increasingly dependent on high-value works by established postwar names such as Andy Warhol and Lucio Fontana.

Rivals in Asia

London contemporary-art dealer White Cube is opening a branch in Hong Kong as it lures business from Asian billionaires. Its rival, Gagosian, opened a branch in the former U.K. colony in January with a Damien Hirst show. Both dealerships were among 260 exhibitors at the fourth annual edition of the Hong Kong International Art Fair in May.

White Cube, which represents Hirst, Tracey Emin and Jake and Dinos Chapman, has acquired a gallery at 50 Connaught Road Central, it confirmed in an e-mail yesterday. The two-story space has been leased for three years and will open in early 2012.

“Asia is the big growth area,” Philip Hoffman, chief executive officer of the London-based Fine Art Fund, said in an interview. “Though the Chinese still tend to concentrate on their own art and antiques, there’s growing interest from some Asian buyers in the established brand names of western contemporary art. Hirst is a hit.”

White Cube is also planning to add to its two London galleries in St. James’s and Hoxton with a third space in the southwest of the city. It has acquired a 15-year lease on a former warehouse at Bermondsey St., and its new gallery there will open near the end of 2011.

(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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