Bloomberg News

Leon Black, McQueen’s ‘Le Mans’ Car; Jane Austen’s Ring

July 11, 2012

Jane Austen Ring

A ring that once belonged to Jane Austen, the early 19th-century author of "Pride and Prejudice" and "Sense and Sensibility." Offered by a descendant of the novelist, it sold for 152,450 pounds at a Sotheby's auction of English literature in London on July 10. Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg

Billionaire Leon Black was the anonymous buyer of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” for $119.9 million at Sotheby’s, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people close to the private equity manager.

At the May 2 evening sale in New York, the 1895 pastel-on- board set a record for a work of art sold at auction. It was consigned by Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen, whose father, Thomas, was a friend, neighbor and patron of the artist.

A major art collector, Black in 2009 paid $47.6 million at Christie’s in London for Raphael’s chalk drawing “Head of a Muse.” At the time it set an auction record for a work on paper and became the priciest work at auction that year. Black is a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Charles Zehren, a Black spokesman, declined to comment.

‘Le Mans’

A Ford GT40 Le Mans racer is estimated to sell for more than $8 million at classic-car auctions in California.

The works Gulf/Mirage, finished in trademark powder blue with a marigold stripe, was raced by Jacky Ickx at Daytona and Le Mans trials in 1968. It was later used as the camera car in Steve McQueen’s 1971 film “Le Mans,” said RM Auctions, who will be offering the Ford in its Monterey sale on August 17-18.

Ferrari Target

The GT40 was created by Ford in the early 1960s to beat Ferrari at long-distance sports car races, after the U.S. auto giant failed to buy the Italian company in 1963.

“They’re fabulous motor cars,” said Adrian Hamilton, chairman of the Hampshire-based dealer Duncan Hamilton & Co., who sold this same Gulf/Mirage works example for about 25,000 pounds in 1983. “The values are vastly different from Ferraris. Italian racers have an extra excitement and flair.”

An apple-green 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO made for the race driver Stirling Moss sold in a private transaction for a record $35 million in May. The Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa in which the U.S. driver Phil Hill won the 1958 Le Mans 24-Hour race was sold by the French collector Pierre Bardinon for about $25 million in May, according to anamera.com, which tracks classic car prices.

The RM sale also includes a 1967 GT40 Mk.I, one of 31 road cars produced. Lacking a Le Mans history, and a Steve McQueen connection, this is estimated at $2.3 million to $2.7 million.

Trophy Art

Sotheby’s (BID:US) and Christie’s International raised a record 657.8 million pounds ($1 billion) from their summer auctions in London as international buyers invested in a trophy-status art.

The world’s two biggest auction houses held sales of Impressionist and modern, contemporary and historic pieces.

“A lot of new people are coming in and some of them are getting carried away,” Philip Hoffman, chief executive of the London-based Fine Art Fund, said in an interview. “The art world is still small, though. $1 billion is a rounding error in the financial markets.”

Christie’s had the edge, tallying 389 million pounds from its sales. Sotheby’s events generated 268.8 million pounds, including 41.4 million pounds from the Gunter Sachs collection in May. Phillips de Pury & Co. added 27.5 million pounds at its June sales of contemporary art.

Joan Miro’s 1927 abstract “Peinture (Etoile Bleue)” was the season’s most expensive individual work, fetching a record 23.6 million pounds at Sotheby’s.

Mainland China

Chinese bidders were particularly active at decorative art sales, underlining a preference, for the moment at least, for traditional European pieces over cutting-edge contemporary.

A mainland Chinese collector gave 1.6 million pounds for an 18th-century English automaton clock -- with a flailing trunk and flapping ears -- at Sotheby’s on June 4. The piece had been made more than 200 years earlier to be sold in China.

An 18th-century Italian inlaid marble casket was another Asian purchase, selling for 657,250 pounds at Christie’s the following evening.

“I’m doing more work with Asian clients,” said the London-based art adviser Tania Buckrell Pos. “There’s a social cache to owning art, a bit of keeping up with the Jones’s.”

Gallery Opening

The New York and Cologne contemporary-art dealer Michael Werner will be opening a gallery in London on Sept. 27.

Werner, who represents Georg Baselitz, Sigmar Polke and Peter Doig, has acquired the first and second floors of an 18th- century house at 22 Upper Brook Street. Fellow New Yorkers Pace Gallery, David Zwirner and Per Skarstedt are also planning to open spaces in the center of the U.K. capital in the fall.

Werner’s space will inaugurate with a show of new works by the Scottish artist Doig, whose 1990 painting “White Canoe” sold for a record 5.7 million pounds at Sotheby’s in 2007.

Jane Austen

One of the summer’s most hotly contested auction lots was an item of jewelry that had once belonged to Jane Austen.

Sotheby’s July 10 auction included a gold ring that had been worn by the author of “Pride and Prejudice,” valued at 20,000 pounds to 30,000 pounds. Of simple design set with a turquoise, the ring was being sold for the first time after being handed down through generations of female descendants.

Austen died, unmarried, in 1817. The lot was battled over by eight bidders before falling to a telephone bid of 152,450 pounds with fees from an unidentified private individual.

Stuffed Ostrich

Taxidermy, with its echoes of Damien Hirst, is one of the hotter collecting areas. On July 19, Christie’s will offer an 18th-century Italian stuffed ostrich in a walnut and glass case, complete with an extra section to accommodate the bird’s head. It is estimated at 15,000 pounds to 30,000 pounds.

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include Jorg von Uthmann on Paris art, Warwick Thompson on London theater and Jason Harper on cars.

To contact the writer on the story: Scott Reyburn in London at sreyburn@hotmail.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.


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