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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Protest Disrupts $72 Million Auction as Warhol Marilyn, Flower Seeds Sell

"Abstraktes Bild" by Gerhard Richter sold for 7.2 million pounds in London. It was estimated at 5 million pounds to 7 million pounds in Sotheby's Feb. 15 auction of contemporary art. The oil on canvas measures 7 feet high. "Abstraktes Bild" by Gerhard Richter sold for 7.2 million pounds in London. It was estimated at 5 million pounds to 7 million pounds in Sotheby's Feb. 15 auction of contemporary art. The oil on canvas measures 7 feet high. Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg

A pile of porcelain sunflower seeds, an Andy Warhol painting of Marilyn Monroe and a Gerhard Richter abstract sold last night at a London auction that was interrupted by a protest at U.K. government cuts.

Sotheby’s evening sale of contemporary art, which raised 44.4 million pounds ($72 million) with fees, briefly stalled when more than 10 activists from the Arts Against Cuts group unfurled a red banner reading “Orgy of the Rich’’ and threw photocopied 50-pound notes at onlookers.

The disruption didn’t stop spending by the world’s rich art collectors. Auction sales of contemporary works are recovering after the financial crisis wiped as much as 50 percent off the value of some pieces.

“There are new buyers in the market,’’ London-based dealer Stephen Friedman said. “There was a lot of bidding from Russia and Asia, some not very discriminating. Tonight did include some good pieces. Overall, demand was strong.’’

The sale began with a pile of Ai Weiwei hand-painted seeds of the same type that the Chinese artist has used to cover the floor of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. The 100-kilogram mound sold to one of three telephone bidders for 349,250 pounds, almost tripling the high estimate of 120,000 pounds.

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