Sotheby's sets UK contemporary record of $174 million

LONDON Wed Jun 29, 2011 9:49pm EDT

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Sotheby's sold contemporary art worth 108.8 million pounds ($174.1 million) on Wednesday in the biggest such sale the auctioneer has held in London, underlining the ongoing strength of the art market.

The total was boosted by 34 works from the Duerckheim Collection, the most important private collection of post-war German Art to be offered for public sale.

It surpassed the high end of pre-sale expectations of 74-105 million pounds and easily outpaced arch-rival Christie's which raised 78.8 million pounds at its equivalent auction on Tuesday.

Pre-sale estimates do not include buyer's premium, however, whereas saleroom prices do.

The Duerckheim Collection, which belonged to German industrialist Christian Duerckheim, went for 60.4 million pounds ($96.7 million), well above expectations of 32-46 million pounds.

The art dated from the 1960s and 1970s and included works from leading lights such as Georg Baselitz, Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke. The works had not appeared on the market for more than 30 years.

The top lot at the auction overall was a Francis Bacon painting entitled "Crouching Nude" (1961) which sold for 8.3 million pounds. On Tuesday, Christie's raised 18.0 million pounds for Bacon's "Study for a Portrait."

Sotheby's said artist auction records were set for Blinky Palermo, Polke, Eugen Schoenebeck, Markus Luepertz and Baselitz.

The previous record for a contemporary art sale in London at Sotheby's was set in February 2008, when an auction raised 95 million pounds.

The dollar value of $189 million was higher than the total raised on Wednesday, however, due to fluctuating exchange rates.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White; editing by Patricia Reaney)

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