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    Weak Dollar, Asian Buyers Aided Christie's Sales, not Sotheby's

    Date: 26 Mar 2008 | | Views: 3306

    Source: Bloomberg (www.bloomberg.com), by Linda Sandler

    Christie's International chalked up the biggest totals ever for its New York Asian art auctions last week as stocks tottered. Not so Sotheby's.

    Christie's took in $80.1 million, including commissions, from art it had valued at $45.7 million to $63.6 million before fees. Sotheby's estimated its Asian sales at $51.9 million to $72.9 million, and they totaled $46.4 million.

    Sotheby's and Christie's, the two largest auction houses, have started to turn in unequal results as the U.S. enters a recession and financial markets continue to be volatile. Publicly traded Sotheby's fell as low as $26.26 last week, a level not reached for about 20 months, before rebounding.

    "The losses seen in financial-related stocks and the closing of hedge funds is worrying people that demand for art will slow,'' said Jody Kane, an analyst at Sidoti & Co.

    Sales at Christie's were helped by the dollar's weakness against the yen, which enabled Japanese buyers to snap up bargains, chief executive officer Edward Dolman said in a phone interview. The auction house also was helped by its continuing commitment to Japanese art sales.

    "That paid off handsomely,'' Dolman said, referring to its push in Japanese auctions. "From our view of the sales, we cannot say we saw any sign of weakness.''

    Sotheby's has scaled back its Japanese sales in London and New York. The auction house did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

    Snuff Bottles Sell

    Together, Sotheby's and Christie's sold $126.5 million of Asian art last week, a bit less than their total of $129.4 million a year earlier. New York's Asian sales jumped 32 percent in March 2007, from $97.9 million in 2006.

    At Sotheby's, buyers passed up a $700,000 gunpowder drawing by contemporary Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang, who currently has an exhibition at New York's Guggenheim Museum. Four ancient bronze vessels with a combined top estimate of $9.8 million also failed to sell.

    At Christie's, a wooden Buddha bought by department-store owner Mitsukoshi Co. for $14.4 million set a record for a Japanese artwork, and a collection of snuff bottles sold out entirely. The late real-estate mogul Leona Helmsley's jade water buffalo fetched $421,000, missing its top estimate of $600,000.

    The two auction houses' next Asian art sales are in Hong Kong in April and May.

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