Giacometti breaks auction record at Sotheby's

LONDON (Reuters) - A bronze statue by Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti broke the record for a work of art at auction on Wednesday, selling for 65 million pounds ($104.3 million) at Sotheby’s in London.

A man walks next to "L'homme qui marche I" by Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti at Sotheby's auction house in London in this January 12, 2010 file photograph. The statue has been sold for 65 million pounds ($104.3 million) on Wednesday, a new record for any work of art sold at auction, according to Sotheby's. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

The price, which includes buyer’s premium, just eclipsed Picasso’s “Garcon a la Pipe,” which fetched $104.2 million in New York in 2004.

The life-size “L’homme qui marche I” (Walking Man I) was the first time a Giacometti figure of a walking man on such a large scale had come to auction in over 20 years, and its hammer price was around four times the auctioneer’s pre-sale expectations.

The statue was sold by German banking firm Commerzbank AG, which acquired it when it took over Dresdner Bank in 2009. Dresdner acquired the sculpture in 1980.

The record was reached in just eight minutes of “fast and furious” bidding, according to Sotheby’s, with at least 10 potential purchasers battling it out for the rare work in a hushed sale room.

Sotheby’s did not identify the buyer, saying only that it was an anonymous telephone bidder.

The result confirms what recent auction results had already suggested -- that the art market has recovered from a shaky year when the financial crisis hit prices as well as the volume of works changing hands, without causing a full-scale collapse.


In the same impressionist and modern art sale, a rare landscape by Gustav Klimt fetched 26.9 million pounds ($43.2 million), well above its pre-sale estimate of 12-18 million pounds.

The 1913 painting “Kirche in Cassone” once belonged to the Austro-Hungarian iron magnate and collector Victor Zuckerkandl and his wife Paula, but when the Jewish couple died childless in 1927 it was left to Viktor’s sister.

She died in the Holocaust and the painting went missing during the Nazi period, only to resurface at an exhibition decades later.

In one of the most important restitution cases for several years, the painting was offered for sale following an agreement between the European private collector who owned it and Georges Jorisch, the 81-year-old great nephew of the original owner.

“Today’s sale closes a long-open chapter in my life in which I recover a part of my forbears’ legacy and pass it on to future generations, just as my parents would have wished,” Jorisch said in a statement.

Sotheby’s raised 146.8 million pounds from the auction overall, far beyond expectations of 69-102 million pounds and the highest total for any auction in London.

Melanie Clore, co-chairman of impressionist and modern art at Sotheby’s said: “The competition which generated these exceptional results demonstrates the continued quest for quality that compels today’s collectors.”

Editing by Philippa Fletcher