Bacon, Warhol, New Buyers Boost Auctions as Sales Increase 56%

"Overrun" (1985) by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for 1.1 million pounds with fees at an evening auction of 29 lots of contemporary art at Phillips de Pury & Co. in London. "Overrun" (1985) by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for 1.1 million pounds with fees at an evening auction of 29 lots of contemporary art at Phillips de Pury & Co. in London. Source: Phillips de Pury via Bloomberg

London’s February series of evening contemporary-art auctions raised 56.2 percent more than last year, boosted by works by Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol, and phone bidding from a widening range of international clients.

The auctions at Sotheby’s, Christie’s International and Phillips de Pury & Co. raised 155.1 million pounds ($251 million), up from 99.3 million pounds last year, according to Bloomberg News calculations.

“There’s a feeling among investment-driven collectors that art has been tested and it’s passed,” Anders Petterson, founder of the London-based research company ArtTactic, said. “People have been surprised how quickly the market has recovered and how blue-chip works have held their value.”

Dealers said the sales were helped by Russian and Asian buyers and the sale of the 43.7 million-pounds of contemporary works from a private collection. These boosted the Sotheby’s total to 88.3 million pounds. Christie’s raised 61.4 million pounds, the most for a contemporary-art auction in the U.K. capital since July 2008, as New York dealer Larry Gagosian paid 10.8 million pounds for a Warhol self portrait. Two years earlier, during the financial crisis, the auction house’s entire sale raised 8.4 million pounds. Phillips added 5.4 million pounds to the tally.

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