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Keith Richards’s Pontiac, Bugattis Join Chinese Art

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Chinese 18th-century white jade seal
A Chinese 18th-century white jade seal was estimated to fetch between 1 million euros and 1.5 million euros at an auction. It sold for 12.4 million euros in March 2011, and by December only 2.2 million had been received, according to the dealer handling the sale. Source: Chaissaing-Marambat via Bloomberg

April 3 (Bloomberg) -- A Pontiac convertible formerly owned by Keith Richards may fetch as much as $35,000 as Rolling Stones fans and car collectors are lured by a U.K. auction.

The dark blue 1950 Chieftain Silver Streak was used by the guitarist as the band recorded “Exile on Main Street” at his home in the south of France in the early 1970s.

The car, with an estimate of 18,000 pounds ($28,850) to 22,000 pounds, stars in the Bonhams April 30 auction at the RAF Museum, Hendon. It is being sold by a U.K. classic car and Stones enthusiast who acquired it directly from Richards in the mid-1980s, said the London-based auction house.

The left-hand-drive convertible was originally supplied by the now-defunct Pontiac marque specifically for the European market and was Richards’s runaround when he rented Villa Nellcote, near Villefranche-sur-Mer, in 1971.

Richards acquired it second-hand from a neighbor of the U.K. novelist Somerset Maugham, said Bonhams.

The band worked on tracks including “Rip This Joint,” “Happy” and “Shake Your Hips” in the basement of Nellcote. Beat novelist William S. Burroughs was among the visitors.

Denmark Bugattis

Two 1930s Bugattis will be included in an auction of more than 175 autos from a classic-car museum in Denmark in August.

Offered without reserves, the cars from the Aalholm Automobil Museum will be sold by R.M. Auctions on Aug. 12. The event, featuring mostly vintage and prewar models, will be held in the grounds of Aalholm Castle, a fortress overlooking the harbor of Nysted.

The event has a total estimate of about 4 million euros ($5.3 million), the Canadian-based auction house said.

“It’s the first time we’ve offered a museum collection in Europe,” RM’s German-based specialist Annette Abaci said in an interview. “We’re normally associated with Ferraris and this sale will be a chance to develop our market in Scandinavia.”

The museum was founded by auto enthusiast Baron J.O. Raben-Levetzau in 1964 using the castle’s own 1911 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost “Roi des Belges” tourer as the starting point, RM said.

The Rolls-Royce will be included in the auction with an estimate of 220,000 euros to 300,000 euros. The Aalholm Castle estate was sold to Stig Husted Andersen in 1995 and the museum closed in 2007 following Andersen’s death, said dealers.

A 1938 Bugatti 57C Stelvio Drophead Coupe by Gangloff has been in the collection since 1965. It will be valued at 240,000 euros to 280,000 euros. A 1931 Bugatti Type 40A Tourer, one of 32 built, will be priced at 50,000 euros to 70,000 euros.

Many of the Aalholm museum’s more valuable cars were sold by Sotheby’s in October 1994. That earlier auction, which also included autos from other sellers, raised 865,778 pounds with a top price of 83,172 pounds for a blue 1929 Mercedes-Benz 630K tourer.

Chinese Sales

Two Chinese artifacts re-offered at auctions in France after their bills failed to be paid have found new buyers -- at far lower prices.

The Toulouse auctioneer Chassaing-Marambat sold an 18th-century white jade seal associated with the Qianlong Emperor for 3.8 million euros with fees on March 31. A year earlier, it had been bid to 12.4 million euros by an unidentified Chinese client who paid only 2.2 million euros of the auction price.

“They’ve lost their deposit and we’re about to take legal action against them for the difference in price,” said Paris-based Asian-art specialist Pierre Ansas, who cataloged the piece. “That bidder was based in Hong Kong. It’s a former British colony, so we can sue them there, unlike bidders on the Chinese mainland.”

Non-Payment

Slow and non-payment is a continuing issue with some Asian bidders at auctions of Chinese works of art.

Sotheby’s sales that were canceled on 19 lots between 2008 and 2011 amounted to about $22 million, according to court papers. The New York-based auctioneer started lawsuits in Hong Kong, naming successful bidders for the first time. Most of the claims have now been settled, said Diana Phillips, a spokeswoman.

The new buyer of the Toulouse seal was a telephone bidder who’d been required to pay a deposit of 3 million euros in order to compete for the piece, Ansas said.

The day before, Olivier Doutrebente in Paris re-offered an Imperial 35-sheet album of 18th-century Buddhist texts that had been bid to 3.6 million euros by another non-paying Chinese client a year ago.

This time around, it sold for 2 million euros to a Chinese bidder on a telephone in Hong Kong, said Severine Berti-Wang, who handles media enquiries for Doutrebente and other auction houses in the French capital.

(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: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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