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A sale by auction house Bonhams and an exhibition co-organized by the Saatchi Gallery are boosting confidence in the market for contemporary art amid worries about renewed financial turbulence, dealers said.

The Saatchi promotion of young artists -- recalling his 1997 Sensation exhibition of works by Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and others -- and Bonhams’s entry into the contemporary market will take place in October. They coincide with the Frieze Art Fair, Europe’s biggest commercial event exclusively for contemporary works.

While prices for some artists have recovered to pre-crisis levels, collectors are concerned about economic weakness. Museum-quality art should hold its value best, dealers said.

“Sellers are telling themselves, I might as well do it now,” said Anthony McNerney, a former Phillips de Pury & Co. specialist who now heads Bonhams’s new seven-strong contemporary-art team in London. “If there’s a dip like there was in 2008, it will dry up. Owners know that if they have a great work, there are still wealthy people willing to buy it, almost whatever the price.”

The Bonhams sale of about 30 and 50 lots on Oct. 13 comes between auctions at Phillips in the afternoon and Sotheby’s (BID) in the evening.

Bonhams’s top lot is a $2-million work by Alighiero Boetti. The Italian Arte Povera artist’s “1984” is 30 feet (9 meters) wide and consists of 192 drawings of magazine covers. It is the first complete example of Boetti’s four hand-drawn collages evoking years, and is the last left in private hands.

Artist Record

The work, formerly owned by Greek collector Dakis Joannou, has been offered by a European private seller and estimated at 1.2 million pounds ($2 million) to 1.8 million pounds, the auction record for the artist. It is the most valuable contemporary work to be auctioned by Bonhams.

The owner was encouraged to sell because of the planned Boetti retrospective at Tate Modern in February 2012, said McNerney. “The seller hasn’t been offered a guarantee.”

The Saatchi Gallery and Channel 4’s “New Sensations” promotion will collaborate with London pop-up gallery The Future Can Wait to present work by emerging artists priced from 1,000 pounds to 10,000 pounds. Twenty of the artists will be shortlisted for the New Sensations prize begun in 2007, and four will have a television film made about them.

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If you go to Bonhams’ New Bond Street headquarters in London this week, an elegant portrait of an unknown woman by Modigiliani is hanging in pride of place. It has a not unreasonable estimate of £1.5 million to £2.5 million, and is the star lot of Bonhams’ Impressionist and modern art sale on 21 June.

The portrait is, however, the only £1 million lot in a 51 lot sale that is expected to fetch around £3 million in all. Down the street at Sotheby’s, there are seventeen £1 million plus lots in a 35 lot Impressionist and modern art sale on 22 June, which is estimated to fetch as much as £110 million. At Christie’s, there are more than 30 in its much bigger sale on 23 June.

This, in essence, is the up-hill struggle facing chairman, Robert Brooks, who, ever since he acquired the Bonhams’ name and merged it with Britain’s third largest auctioneer, Phillips Son & Neale, 10 years ago, has repeatedly stated that his aim is to challenge the duopoly of Sotheby’s and Christie’s at the top. A teacher marking Brooks’s performance over the decade would certainly award him full marks for effort.

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