* Second highest contemporary art sale in Europe
* Francis Bacon portrait sets new record for artist
By Julia Fioretti
LONDON, Feb 14 The high-end art market passed
another resilience test this week when Christie's fetched 124
million pounds ($206 million) for contemporary artworks at an
evening auction in London, the second highest total for a
European sale in that category.
The post-war and contemporary art auction at Christie's on
Thursday evening highlights a series to be held in the British
capital this month, shining the spotlight once again on a
buoyant art market that experts say is driven by a growing pool
of buyers, particularly from emerging markets.
A celebrated portrait by Irish-born artist Francis Bacon of
his alcoholic lover and muse George Dyer, "Portrait of George
Dyer Talking", painted in 1966, was bagged for 42 million pounds
by a U.S. buyer, well above its pre-sale estimate of 30 million
pounds, Christie's said on Thursday.
That made the painting the most expensive work of
contemporary art to be sold at auction in Europe and also set a
record for a single canvas by the artist, Christie's added.
The London-based auction house held the biggest ever sale of
contemporary art in Europe in June 2012, when it sold 133
million pounds' worth of works.
Other top lots at the auction included Gerhard Richter's
"Abstraktes Bild" from 1989, which went for 20 million pounds
and Damien Hirst's "Mickey", a colourful depiction of the
popular cartoon character Mickey Mouse, which was snapped up for
"The astonishing energy and depth of bidding at this
evening's auction follows on from the record auction of post-war
and contemporary art in New York last November," said Francis
Outred, international director and head of post-war and
contemporary art at Christie's Europe on Thursday.
Christie's New York November sale saw a Bacon triptych sell
for a whopping record of $142 million, a result experts
attributed to the safe haven status of the high-end art market,
particularly when compared with volatile emerging market
currencies and unstable economies.
STOCK EXCHANGE OF THE ART MARKET
The eye-watering prices achieved for masterpieces in the
past years have encouraged ever more collectors to sell, experts
say, and the expanding class of buyers is helping keep demand
"When you get very significant prices achieved by global
buying, people will know that not only are they getting the
highest price but they are selling to the broadest possible
audience," Jussi Pylkkanen, president of Christie's Europe, told
Reuters by telephone on Friday.
"That creates its own impetus."
A growing class of the super-wealthy in emerging markets,
particularly China, Russia and the Middle East, have been
increasing their buying power in a sector typically dominated by
U.S. and European collectors.
Pylkkanen said that the Bacon piece sold on Thursday would
probably not have come to market had it not been for the
record-setting triptych last November. "That gives confidence to
American and European buyers," Pylkkanen said.
"London and America, which (are) the stock exchanges of the
art market, (are) able to offer these pieces to a much broader
Thursday's sale followed that held by Christie's rival
Sotheby's a day earlier which saw buyers parting with 88
million pounds ($146 million).
Auction officials have pointed to London's position as a
financial centre and its attractive real estate market as
reasons for buyers flocking to the British capital.
"London is a centre of art production and private and
institutional collecting, supported by a network of creative and
financial industries, and its global location physically as well
as ideologically positions it well for the exchange of art in a
secondary market," said Dida Tait, Head of Development &
External Relations, at the Contemporary Art Society.