Lady Gaga Boosts $392 Million Fashion, Contemporary-Art Sales

Alexander McQueen gown
An Alexander McQueen ivory silk tulle empire-line gown. Dating from the fall/ winter of 2008-2009, it sold for a record 85,250 pounds at Christie's June 27 Daphne Guinness Collection sale to benefit the Isabella Blow Foundation. Reports said it was bought by singer Lady Gaga. Source: Christie's Images Ltd. 2012 via Bloomberg.

Lady Gaga was among the buyers during a week of contemporary art and fashion auctions in London that raised more than 250 million pounds ($392 million).

The U.S. singer was represented in the room at Christie’s International’s June 27 charity sale of fashion items belonging to the model and designer Daphne Guinness. The auction house confirmed that Gaga was a buyer, though it wouldn’t specify which, or how many, items she bought.

The 102-lot evening sale was held to establish a foundation in memory of Guinness’s friend, Isabella Blow, the fashion editor credited with discovering Alexander McQueen. The event raised 476,800 pounds, more than four times the estimate.

“Having taken an auction away from Christie’s, I decided to give them another in its place,” Guinness said at the presale preview.

Blow died on May 6, 2007. Her wardrobe, including the clothes McQueen created for his college graduation, had been scheduled to be auctioned by Christie’s in September 2010. Guinness bought her friend’s collection before the sale with the long-term intention of putting it on public display.

An Alexander McQueen ivory silk tulle empire-line gown was among the items Guinness offered in its place. Dating from the fall/winter of 2008-2009, it sold for 85,250 pounds, a record for the designer at auction. Lady Gaga’s management hasn’t commented on reports that she bought the gown.

The top price of the evening was 133,250 pounds given by a telephone bidder for Mario Testino photograph of Guinness published in the March 2008 edition of U.K. Vogue magazine.

Basquiat Painting

The night after Christie’s sale, Phillips de Pury & Co. offered a 1981 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat, a friend of Blow’s when she worked at Vogue in New York during the early 1980s.

Estimated at 6 million pounds to 8 million pounds, the acrylic and oilstick “Irony of Negro Policeman” was the most highly-valued work in Phillips’s 28-lot auction of contemporary artworks. It fell to a telephone bidder for 8.2 million pounds with fees, having been sold privately earlier in the year for about $8 million, dealers said.

A 1984 acrylic-on-canvas of Olympic rings and heads painted by Basquiat and Andy Warhol fetched a further 6.8 million pounds with fees.

Another version of this collaboration, prompted by the 23rd Olympiad in Los Angeles, is currently on show at Gagosian in Davies Street in the Mayfair district of London.

Selling Rate

Phillips’s sale raised 23.4 million pounds with fees against an estimate of 15.1 million pounds to 21.2 million pounds, based on hammer prices. The evening’s selling rate of 86 percent was similar to those at the equivalent contemporary-art auctions held by Sotheby’s and Christie’s on June 26 and June 27 respectively.

Christie’s 132.8 million-pound offering was the most valuable contemporary-art auction held in Europe, surpassing the 108.8 million pounds raised by Sotheby’s from a mixed-owner sale combined with the Durkheim Collection in London in June 2011.

“The trophies are more expensive than ever,” the London-based art adviser Wendy Goldsmith said in an interview. “Works in the range of $200,000 to $600,000 are more difficult. People like bankers don’t have the same levels of disposable income, and the feel-good factor isn’t there any more.”

Sotheby’s and Christie’s day sales of contemporary works on June 27 and June 28 raised 13.8 million pounds and 15.5 million pounds respectively. Sotheby’s found buyers for 69 percent of its lots. The corresponding Part II London auctions in June 2008, at the height of the last art market boom, took 26.8 million pounds and 22.4 million pounds.

“Fatigue is another factor,” Goldsmith said. “We’ve just had art fairs in New York, Hong Kong and Basel. We’ve never had quite so much of a run-up to these auctions.”

(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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