Less than two thousand impressionist, modern and contemporary works of art changed hands in New York this month for the equivalent of 2.6 billion euros. That’s the result of the 15 spring auctions at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips. Never before did the three major auction houses jointly achieve such a high turnover in May.
Christie’s achieved the largest turnover at seven auctions: more than 1.4 billion dollars. Sotheby’s raised nearly $1.1 billion with six auctions, and Phillips with two auctions for $256 million.
Christie’s sold the most expensive work of art: a by Andy Warhol screen-printed portrait of movie star Marilyn Monroe, the second most expensive artwork ever auctioned at $195 million. The canvas was part of the collection of the Swiss art dealers Thomas and Doris Ammann. Raising $318 million from just 36 works of art, it became one of the most expensive private collections auctioned.
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The success of the Phillips evening auction, the smallest of the big three auction houses, was striking. The revenue of 225 million dollars represented a turnover increase of 90 percent compared to a year ago. Right away untitled painting by Jean-Michel Basquiatsold for $85 million, Phillips also had one of the highest yields of the spring auctions.
How good the market for rare masterpieces is was also apparent from an auction organized by Sotheby’s on 5 May at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. A 1995 Mercedes sports car, one of only two ever built of the 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe, was bought by an unknown private individual for the record amount of 135 million euros. Proceeds will go to a car brand fund for environmental science scholarships.
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