Pollock's $8 Million `Flame' Tops Sales in Maastricht

A handout photo, provided to the media on Tuesday, March 22, 2008, shows a painting by Jackson Pollock entitled ''The Magic Flame''. Source: Cawdell Douglas via Bloomberg News

Scott Reyburn

March 11 (Bloomberg) -- A Jackson Pollock painting priced at around $8 million became the most expensive work sold so far at Tefaf, the world's largest art and antiques fair, in the Dutch city of Maastricht, which opened on March 7.

Pollock's ``The Magic Flame,'' from about 1946, was bought by a European collector from Hauser & Wirth, based in Zurich and London, said Florian Berktold, one of the gallery's directors, in a telephone interview yesterday.

``The European art market is very strong at the moment,'' said Berktold. ``We saw this at the auctions in February too.'' The organizers of Tefaf said 25,000 people had visited the event in the first three days, an increase of around 7 percent over the same period last year, even as gloom gripped financial markets.

``A number of exhibitors, particularly in the antiquities and modern-art section, reported their busiest-ever opening to the fair,'' said Tefaf in an e-mailed news release.

``I've seen fewer Americans than before,'' said Raimund Thomas, of Munich-based modern-art specialists, Galerie Thomas. ``But there are plenty of clients from Europe, Russia and Asia. One is jumping into the gap of the other.''

Thomas said he had sold four works, including a double-sided canvas by the German Expressionist artist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner to a European collector for around 3 million euros ($4.6 million).

Oriental art specialist Floris Vanderven of Dutch-based Vanderven & Vanderven said yesterday he had sold more than 80 pieces.

No Complaints

``Last year I sold 75 pieces during the entire fair,'' said Vanderven. ``Nobody has complained about the stock exchanges or the low dollar.''

Vanderven said U.S. clients had accounted for 20 percent of his sales, which were led by the 400,000 euros paid by a European collector for a Tang dynasty terra cotta of a dignitary.

The London-based Oriental specialist Ben Janssens has so far sold more than 50 pieces. These included a 19th-century Japanese lacquered wood karabitsu box to a New York-based Russian collector at 50,000 euros and two 18th-century Indian marble water slides to European collectors at 30,000 euros each.

``We could have sold those water slides 40 times over,'' said Ben Janssens's Hidde van Seggelen, a contemporary-art specialist.

Charles Ede, an antiquities dealer based in London, said he had sold 27 pieces so far, including a 2200 B.C. Cycladic marble sculpture for 220,000 euros to another European collector.

Demand `Surprise'

``I've been surprised how well the fair has gone,'' said Ede. ``Art collectors seem to be less affected by recession than others.''

Ede said he and other antiquities dealers had benefited from being placed near modern-art galleries at the fair: ``There's been some wonderful cross-pollination.'' Ede said 20 percent of his sales had been to contemporary-art buyers.

Tefaf said that the Vincent Van Gogh portrait of a young girl offered by the London dealers Dickinson at $30 million remains unsold.

Among the most significant early sales confirmed by Old Master dealers was a Hendrick Avercamp ``Winter Landscape'' bought by a U.S. collector from Zurich's Koetser Gallery for 1.6 million euros, said Tefaf.

The fair continues though March 16.

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are his own.)
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