$35 million Warhol Coke bottle lifts Sotheby's auction

NEW YORK Wed Nov 10, 2010 1:53am EST

Security guards stand near ''Coca-Cola [4] Large Coca-Cola'' by Andy Warhol during a preview of Sotheby's Impressionist & Modern Art auction in New York October 29, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Security guards stand near ''Coca-Cola [4] Large Coca-Cola'' by Andy Warhol during a preview of Sotheby's Impressionist & Modern Art auction in New York October 29, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A black-and-white Coke bottle on canvas by Andy Warhol sold for $35.36 million on Tuesday at Sotheby's robust contemporary and post-war art auction.

The sale of 54 works, an impressive 91 percent of which found buyers, totaled $222.4 million including commissions, beating the high pre-sale estimate of $214 million.

Five artists set auction records as collectors continued vying for works in the post-war art sector, an increasingly sought after sector of the art world.

"In this new market, it was a huge success," said Tobias Meyer, Sotheby's worldwide head of contemporary art, who also served as auctioneer.

It was the fourth successful sale in two weeks for Sotheby's, Christie's and Phillips de Pury & Co.

After a precipitous decline following the 2008 financial crisis, the art market has made a solid recovery in 2010, driven in part by a huge infusion of new collectors abroad with fortunes newly forged in oil, gas and gold.

Led by Warhol's "Coca-Cola (4) (Large Coca-Cola)," which far surpassed the high estimate of $25 million, the sale was more evidence of the growing appetite for post-war works.

The market for such works, along with contemporary art, has in recent years challenged and sometimes eclipsed the demand for earlier Impressionist and "modern" auction categories.

"What's happening is that people have been moving into this market from the Impressionist market. ... It's become one market," said Meyer.

Prices commanded by top Warhols had put the pop artist in the same league as Matisse and Picasso, he added.

On Monday, Warhol's "Men in Her Life," a multi-image depiction of favored subject Elizabeth Taylor, soared to $63.4 million at Phillips.

"It's a global, 20th-century iconic market," Meyer said.

Other highlights included a pair of works by Gerhard Richter that fetched $13.23 million and $11.3 million, and Francis Bacon's "Figure in Movement," which sold for $14 million. Each more than doubled the low estimate.

In all, six works sold for more than $10 million, including an untitled Rothko which went for $22.5 million.

The auctions conclude on Wednesday with Christie's contemporary and post-war sale, which is expected to be the season's biggest.

(Editing by Todd Eastham)

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