Christie's helps moguls reclaim artistic heritage
August 17, 2005 NEW YORK. By Deborah Brewster
Christie's, the art auction house, had record sales in the first half of this year as the art market was buoyed by a convergence of old and new - US hedge fund and property moguls buying contemporary art, and Russian and Chinese buyers reclaiming their artistic heritage.
Sales at Christie's, which is owned by François Pinault, were $1.65bn in the six months to June - a third higher than last year. It sold 178 works of art for more than $1m, compared with 132 during the same period last year.
Sotheby's, which is publicly traded, reported first-half sales of $1.3bn last week, a slight drop from last year's performance, which had been unusually strong. It said it expected "the current buoyancy in the international art market to continue".
Matthew Weigman, a Sotheby's spokesman, said: "What we are seeing is a rush of new buyers from Russia and China who are buying back their heritage."
The auction house's Hong Kong sale this year reaped $81m, which would have been unheard of just a few years ago, said Mr Weigman. Last year's Hong Kong sale reached $57m.
Last year one of Russia's richest men, Victor Vekselberg, leapt in before a planned Sotheby's auction of a big collection of Fabergé eggs, and bought the lot for $100m.
"That was the first indication we had of the super-wealthy Russians who were ready to buy," said Mr Weigman. "Since then it has taken off. At our Russian sale this year we had Russian porcelain vases estimated at half a million that went for $3.9m".
Christie's also reported strong sales from Russia and China, as well as from Middle Eastern buyers. However, the main drivers of its figures were its May sales of post-modern and contemporary art, which reached $171m, a record for any such sale.
Andrée Corroon, a spokesman for Christie's, said hedge fund managers, investment bankers and real estate companies were the big new buyers.
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