International art market booming


THE INTERNATIONAL art market appears to be immune from the ravages of the ongoing international financial crisis. A fortnight of major summer auctions of Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Art is under way in London and is estimated to realise in excess of £500 million. Scores of paintings have already sold this week for prices over £1 million and some for significantly more.

A single painting by 20th-century Spanish artist Joan Miró sold at Sotheby’s on Tuesday evening for £23.5 million (€29.2 million) – a world record price for this artist. The painting, titled Peinture (Étoile Bleue), dated 1927, was last sold in Paris in 2007 for €11.6 million. Sotheby’s said “the hammer fell after a tense stand-off among four bidders, with offers jumping in large increments before the work was finally won by a telephone buyer”. The sum paid was the highest price for a work of art sold in London thus far this year.

Highlights in next week’s auctions include paintings by Irish-born artist Francis Bacon. On Wednesday evening, Christie’s will offer Study for Self-Portrait (1964), and one of 12 floor-length self-portraits made by the artist – four of which are now held in international museum collections. The estimate is “upon request” but it understood that the painting has a reserve of £20 million (€25 million).

Confusingly for collectors Bacon painted numerous self-portraits.

Another goes under the hammer at Sotheby’s on Tuesday which is also titled Study for Self-Portrait. This version is much smaller (36cm by 31cm) and is dated 1980. The estimate is £5 million-£7 million (€6 million- €8 million).