Koons record as London art sales draw to close

LONDON Tue Jul 1, 2008 7:01am EDT

Contemporary Art specialist at Christie's, Pilak Ordovas, views 'Balloon Flower' by U.S. artist Jeff Koons in central London June 19, 2008. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Contemporary Art specialist at Christie's, Pilak Ordovas, views 'Balloon Flower' by U.S. artist Jeff Koons in central London June 19, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - U.S. artist Jeff Koons set a new auction record when his polished pink sculpture "Balloon Flower (Magenta)" fetched 12.9 million pounds ($25.8 million), including commission, at Christie's late on Monday.

Its post-war and contemporary sale, the penultimate major auction of a series held in London in the last 10 days, raised 86 million pounds ($172 million) overall, at the lower end of predictions of between 80 and 115 million pounds.

Rival Sotheby's holds its main post-war and contemporary auction on Tuesday evening, winding up a $1 billion art bonanza that will help determine the strength of the market amid growing concerns about the broader economic picture.

So far values have held up well, as the super-wealthy continue to accumulate the most coveted artists at record or near-record levels.

The highlight of the sales so far has been a Monet water-lily painting which fetched $80.5 million at Christie's last week, doubling the previous record for the artist.

Sotheby's followed with a record for a futurist work at auction when Gino Severini's "Danseuse" sold for $29.6 million.

Koons' previous record before the Christie's sale this week was $23.6 million for "Hanging Heart (Magenta/Gold)" in New York in November.

Other highlights from Monday evening included a self-portrait triptych by Francis Bacon which sold for $34.5 million and Lucian Freud's "Naked Portrait With Reflection", which went for $23.5 million.

The 85-year-old painter holds the record auction price for a work by a living artist. His "Benefits Supervisor Sleeping" fetched $33.6 million in New York in May.

(Editing by Keith Weir)

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