May 23 (Bloomberg) -- An Andy Warhol portrait of Brigitte Bardot was among the top lots in a $56 million sale of artworks that were owned by the actress’s late husband.
The 1974 dark-red silkscreen, based on a 1959 photo by Richard Avedon, was sold last night for the heirs of Gunter Sachs, the German multimillionaire who was married to the French movie star from 1966 to 1969. It fetched 3 million pounds ($4.7 million) at Sotheby’s in London as the first session of the two-day auction raised 35.6 million pounds.
The event followed a $1 billion series of Impressionist and contemporary art auctions in New York earlier this month at which wealthy international buyers were paying record prices for investment-quality works by bankable names.
“The Bardot was the bargain of the night,” the Montreal-based collector Francois Odermatt said in an interview. “We shouldn’t judge Sachs’s taste just from this sale. The family has kept a lot of the best pieces. After these results, they might do a Gunter Sachs II auction.”
It was one of eight paintings of his ex-wife that Sachs commissioned from Warhol in 1972 to decorate his “Pop Art apartment” in the Palace Hotel, St. Moritz. It was valued by Sotheby’s at 3 million pounds to 4 million pounds and was bought by a telephone bidder, underbid by the New York collector Jose Mugrabi.
The colors of this particular Warhol were less attractive than another example that fetched 5.4 million pounds at Christie’s International in 2007, dealers said.
Cheyenne Westphal, Sotheby’s European head of contemporary art, confirmed in the post-sale news conference that the family of the “cosmopolitan playboy collector” has chosen retain works, though she didn’t specify how many.
Sachs was one of the most flamboyant members of the international “jet set” of the 1960s and 1970s. Bardot was the second of his three wives. The German auto heir, bobsleigh champion and art collector courted the actress by flying over her Cote d’Azur home, La Madrague, in a helicopter and bombing it with red roses.
The 300 works had been consigned for sale at Sotheby’s following Sachs’s suicide at his chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland, in May 2011, at the age of 78.
The portrait was one of seven Warhol pieces in a 41-lot evening sale of Pop Art and furniture from his collection. Last night’s session beat a forecast of 18.25 million pounds to 25.6 million pounds with Warhol capturing six out of the 10 highest prices. All but four of the lots found buyers.
Sachs became a friend of Warhol after the two met in St. Tropez in the early 1960s. Sachs organized an exhibition for the artist at his own gallery in Hamburg in 1972.
Warhol’s 1986 pink “Fright Wig,” one of the artist’s last self-portraits, was the collection’s most expensive work, selling to an unidentified bidder in the room for 5.4 million pounds against an estimate of 2 million pounds to 3 million pounds.
It had been bought by Sachs at auction in 1998, while the 1964-65 silkscreen “Flowers” had been acquired by the collector from the Zurich dealer Bruno Bischofberger in 1979. It sold to Mugrabi for 3.7 million pounds.
Mugrabi was one of more than a dozen unsuccessful bidders on a complete set of three pieces of 1969 mannequin furniture by the British-born Pop artist Allen Jones, each featuring a provocatively posed leather-clad female figure. The works had decorated Sachs’s bedroom at St. Moritz. From an edition of six, they were valued at 30,000 pounds to 40,000 pounds each.
They excited intense competition before the hat stand, chair and table sold to the same bidder represented by Alexander Rotter, head of contemporary art at Sotheby’s New York, for successive record prices of 780,450 pounds, 836,450 pounds and 970,850 pounds each.
“I remember when a set of these came up for auction in the early 1980s,” Mugrabi said in an interview. “They sold for about $15,000. I thought they were too vulgar then. Taste evolves and they now appeal to the new generation of collectors.”
Even more of a surprise was the 1.6 million pounds given for a set of three pieces of 1968 “sheep” furniture by French designer Francois-Xavier Lalanne.
From an original flock of 16 in Sachs’s St. Moritz apartment, they had been estimated at 250,000 pounds to 350,000 pounds. Bidders had been emboldened by the $7.4 million for 10 epoxy stone and bronze sheep pieces by Lalanne from a Japanese sculpture park at a Christie’s design sale in New York in December, dealers said.
After today’s part II session of the Sachs collection, Sotheby's said the final total was 41.5 million pounds with fees, double the lower presale estimate of 20.7 million pounds at hammer prices.
(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)
Muse highlights include Farah Nayeri on film in Cannes and Warwick Thompson on theater.
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