* Auction houses eye strong start to 2012
* Joan Miro works in limelight
* Sellers bank on art boom continuing
By Mike Collett-White
LONDON, Jan 16 Art market confidence shows
few signs of flagging despite broader economic concerns, with
both Christie's and Sotheby's predicting big sales in London
Christie's, the world's largest auctioneer, is expecting to
sell art worth 86.2-127.1 million pounds ($132-195 million) at
its impressionist, modern and surrealist evening sales on Feb.
That compares with estimates of 73.8-109 million before the
corresponding auctions in 2011 and a final tally of 85.3
million, which included the buyer's premium.
At Sotheby's the picture is similar, with their main evening
auction on Feb. 8 expected to raise more than 78 million pounds
and comfortably exceed last year's sale total of 68.8 million.
As in 2011, the stress was on works that rarely, if ever,
come to market or are of high enough quality to hang in major
While concerns remain about prices of lesser works, the top
end of the art market has been remarkably resilient despite the
euro crisis and slowing economic growth, boosted by new
super-wealthy buyers from China.
"Many of the works are appearing at auction for the first
time or returning to the market after many decades in private
collections," said Helena Newman, chairman of the Sotheby's
impressionist and modern art department in Europe.
The highlight of the auctioneer's sale is expected to be
Joan Miro's "Peinture" of 1933, which is expected to fetch 7-10
If the buyer's premium is added on, the work could come
close to setting a new auction record for the artist which
stands at $17.1 million at Christie's in New York in May, 2008.
Peinture is one of a series by Miro which the Spanish artist
saw as a personal breakthrough, and referred to them in a latter
to Matisse as "a red letter day in my career".
Also among the highlights of the sale is Gustav Klimt's
recently rediscovered landscape "Seeufer mit Birken" painted in
1901 and not seen in public for more than a century. It is
valued at 6-8 million pounds.
At Christie's, the top lot is set to be Juan Gris's Cubist
still life "Le Livre", dating from 1914-15, with a pre-sale
estimate of 12-18 million pounds.
Next in line is another Miro, "Painting-Poem", with a price
tag of 6-9 million pounds and dating to 1925.
Paintings from the collection of the late Hollywood actress
Elizabeth Taylor will feature, including Vincent Van Gogh's "Vue
de l'Asile de la Chapelle de Saint-Remy" of 1889, expected to
sell for 5-7 million pounds.
A total of 38 pictures from Taylor's collection will be
offered at Christie's on Feb. 7 and 8.
In December, an auction of 80 items of Taylor's famous
jewellery collection made $116 million in New York, more than
double the previous record for a single collection.