September 25, 2010 / 9:17 PM / 9 years ago

Lehman art collection takes in $12.3 mln at auction

* Records set for 17 artists

* Hirst’s ‘We’ve Got Style’ fails to sell

NEW YORK, Sept 25 (Reuters) - An auction of fine art from the Lehman Brothers collection took in $12.3 million on Saturday, beating expectations but barely denting the billions owed from the financial group’s 2008 bankruptcy, the biggest in U.S. history.

One work, an untitled 2001 piece by Julie Mehretu, who also created a well-received commissioned mural in the Manhattan headquarters of Goldman Sachs (GS.N), sold for $1,022,500. The price set a record for the artist. Sixteen other artists also set records.

Several works by Gerhard Richter also fetched strong prices, with three included in the sale’s top 10 lots. Pieces by Liu Ye, Mark Grotjahn and and Neo Rauch also achieved top prices.

Damien Hirst’s “We’ve Got Style (The Vessel Collection - Blue/Green),” a series of three cabinets holding ceramic objects, which Sotheby’s (BID.N) estimated at $800,000 to $1.2 million, failed to sell.

The sale took in a total of $12.28 million, with 83 percent of the 142 lots on offer finding buyers. Sotheby’s had estimated the auction would take in $10 million to $12 million.

Sotheby’s said the sale was marked by international bidding, with several successful online bidders.

Buyers included institutions such as the Buenos Aires Museum Art Center, which purchased three works, led by Robert Longo’s untitled ink-and-charcoal depiction of a rose, which fetched $92,500.

“While the Lehman name certainly attracted a great deal of attention, the people who bid today participated because they knew it was good art,” said Tobias Meyer, Sotheby’s worldwide head of contemporary art.

Proceeds of the sale will be used to pay creditors owed hundreds of billions following Lehman’s bankruptcy.

At the time Lehman filed for bankruptcy, it listed $639 billion in assets. In April, Lehman submitted a first draft of its plan to end its reorganization and pay creditors, estimating its recoverable assets amounted to $50 billion.

Philadelphia-based auction house Freeman’s will sell 250 other pieces from the collection in its modern and contemporary art auction on Nov. 7.

Many of the pieces in Saturday’s sale were acquired by asset manager Neuberger Berman, which Lehman bought in 2003. Neuberger re-emerged in 2009 as an independent asset manager.

Reporting by Chris Michaud; Additional reporting by Phil Wahba; Editing by Peter Cooney

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