June art sales expected to set records

By Deborah Brewster in New York

The big June art sales, which start Tuesday in London, are expected by the auction houses to break more records as collectors from commodities-rich regions such as Russia and the Middle East emerge to fuel the decade-long boom in the art market.
Sotheby’s and Christie’s, the two main auction houses, together estimate they will sell about £400m ($790m) in artworks over 10 days at the sales of Impressionist, Modern and contemporary art. The boom in oil and other commodities is helping support the art market. Prices of artworks have continued to rise and Sotheby’s said that the number of new buyers in the art market was also rising. It said 21 per cent of its lots last year were bought by new buyers.
“Bidders from the Middle East, China, Russia and India have become twice as active, redefining the size and scope of the art market,” the auction house said.
“Five years ago, buyers who spent more than $500,000 at our auctions came from 36 countries. Last year they came from 58 countries . . . emerging markets have doubled the value of their bids in three years.”
Roman Abramovich, the London-based Russian oligarch, has emerged as a big collector, according to the Art Newspaper, which said he was the buyer in May of Francis Bacon’s “Triptych, 1976” for $86m – a record for a postwar artwork sold at auction – at Sotheby’s.
Christie’s kicks off the June season on Tuesday with its Impressionist and Modern evening sale, where it is offering a work by Claude Monet, “Le bassin aux nympheas”, one of the artist’s most significant water-lily paintings, which it expects to go for £18m to £24m. It is part of the collection of J Irwin Miller, an Indiana industrialist, whose 17-piece collection is being sold at Christie’s.
Among the highlights at Sotheby’s the next night are Gino Severini’s “Danseuse”, estimated at £7m-£10m.
The contemporary sales, which take place next week, are estimated to garner about the same value as the Impressionist and Modern works, reflecting a shift that has seen contemporary art become more popular.
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