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On Wednesday, May 14, Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale in New York garnered $364 million, falling well within the auction’s pre-sale estimate of $337 million to $474 million. Of the 79 lots offered, 12 failed to find buyers. While the auction fell short of Christie’s monumental $475 million sale, which took place the evening before, new records were set for twelve artists at Sotheby’s, including Julian Schnabel, Wade Guyton, Rosemarie Trockel, Dan Flavin, Matthew Barney, and Keith Haring.

The top lot of the night was Andy Warhol’s “Six Self-Portraits,” which had resided in a private collection since its creation in 1986. The portraits, which are among the last works created by the pioneering Pop artist, sold for $30.1 million (estimate: $25 million to $35 million). The Warhol works were trailed by Gerhard Richter’s oil-on-canvas painting “Blaud” (1988), which sold to a telephone bidder for $28.7 million (estimate: $25 million to $35 million) and Jeff Koons’ mirror polished stainless steel sculpture with transparent color coating titled “Popeye” (1988), which fetched $28.2 million (estimate on request). The 6 ½-foot tall sculpture was purchased by billionaire casino tycoon and art collector Steve Wynn, who plans to display the work in his Las Vegas casino.

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Auction houses expect to sell as much as $2.3 billion of art in New York this month as billionaires from China to Brazil compete for trophy works by Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Jeff Koons in a surging market.

Two weeks of semiannual sales of Impressionist, modern, postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s, Sotheby’s (BID) and Phillips begin May 6, with online bidding as early as today. Their combined sales target represents a 77 percent increase from estimates for a similar round of auctions a year ago.

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Monday, 28 January 2013 15:48

Gagosian vs. Perelman Lawsuit Rages On

Onetime friends and business partners, powerhouse art dealer Larry Gagosian and billionaire collector Ronald O. Perelman have been involved in a bitter legal battle since September 2012. On January 25, 2013 Gagosian asked a New York judge to dismiss the case, which accuses him of using his high standing in the art world to arrange secret deals and influence art prices; Gagosian claims that the lawsuit is frivolous.

The ongoing clash started last year when Perelman purchased Jeff Koons’ (b. 1955) $4 million Popeye sculpture from Gagosian along with two other works said to be a Cy Twombly (1928-2011) painting and a Richard Serra (b. 1939) sculpture. Perelman paid for Koons’ oversize granite sculpture in full, but decided to cancel the deal when the work took longer than expected to complete. Since the value of Koons’ work is constantly on the rise, Perelman insisted that Gagosian owed him $12 million rather than the $4 million he initially paid for the unfinished work.

In his lawsuit, Perelman claimed that Gagosian had a secret agreement with Koons to redirect most of the profit from Popeye’s resale away from Perelman and towards Koons. The sculpture in question was ultimately sold to an unnamed buyer for $4.5 million and Gagosian gave $4.25 million of that back to Perelman, a fact Gagosian pointed out in court on Friday. Gagosian also claimed that Perelman refused to pay the agreed-upon price for the Twombly and Serra works, insisting that he would compensate for the debt he accumulated by giving Gagosian a number of artworks from his collection that he no longer wanted. Rather than benefitting from the deal as Perelman asserts, Gagosian said that he has lost $1.8 million so far.

While Perelman maintains that Gagosian is dishonest and deceitful in his dealings, Gagosian claims that the lawsuit is simply a way for his former friend to mar his name. Perelman’s side has made subpoenas as the battle continues.  

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