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Fontana painting leads Sotheby's London sale

Argentinian-Italian artist Lucio Fontana's "Concetto spaziale", painted in 1961, is seen in this undated handout photograph in London January 15, 2009. The painting by Fontana, held in the same private collection for over 45 years, is expected to fetch 5-7 million pounds ($7.7-10.7 million) at auction next month, Sotheby's said on Thursday. REUTERS/Sotheby's/Handout

LONDON (Reuters) - A painting by Argentinean-Italian artist Lucio Fontana, in the same private collection for over 45 years, is expected to fetch 5-7 million pounds at auction next month, Sotheby’s said on Thursday.

“Concetto spaziale,” part of Fontana’s Venezia series, was made in 1961 and was acquired directly from the artist in the 1960s. Sotheby’s described the oil on canvas a “museum quality.”

The abstract painting is one of the highlights of the auctioneer’s contemporary evening art sale in London on February 5, which will also include works by Jeff Koons, Gerhard Richter and Roy Lichtenstein.

Overall the auction is expected to fetch between 16.6 million and 23.1 million pounds, sharply down on the corresponding sale last year that raised 95 million pounds in total.

Sotheby’s rival Christie’s has also scaled back its London auction dramatically, reflecting caution in a market that has been hit by the credit crunch and tumbling values of property, oil, commodities and stock markets.

Both auction houses say they are deliberately scaling back their sales to reflect the market in the once-booming sector, and that greater emphasis has been put on finding top-quality works that have rarely, if ever, come to market.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)

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