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July 13, 2007 

In the art market, even Friday the 13th is an occasion for good news. On June 13, 2007, Christie’s International announced total worldwide sales of $3.25 billion for the first half of 2007, an increase of 45 percent over the $2.24 billion sold during the same period in 2006. (It’s worth noting, in light of the wretched weakness of the U.S. dollar, that the increase in pounds, from £1.24 billion to £1.63 billion, represents an uptich of only 32 percent.)

What’s more, according to Christie’s calculations, the firm sold 59 of the 100 highest priced paintings at auction during the period. Christie’s sold 358 works of art for more than $1 million in the first half of 2007, compared to 189 sold at that level last year. These totals include $163 million (£82 million) in private sales, including sales made through the Haunch of Venison gallery in London, acquired in early 2007. 

In a press release, Christie’s CEO Edward Dolman emphasized the global -- and online -- expansion of the art market. "With our international teams of specialists, auctioneers and representatives in such vibrant cities as Shanghai, Beijing, Mumbai, Dubai and Moscow, and with the power of our online bidding feature Christie’s Live," Dolmen said, "we offer the Christie’s experience and magic to the entire globe."

A few more stats: Christie’s sales in London, at its King Street and South Kensington locations, totaled $1.98 billion, rather more than the total U.S. sales of $1.26 billion. Sales of post-war and contemporary art were up 111 percent over last year, to $914 million, edging out Impressionist and modern art, which rose "only" 28 percent, to $865 million.

The evening auction of Old Master and British paintings at Christie’s London on July 5, 2007, totaled £41,540,000 ($83,396,120), with 55 of 91 lots finding buyers, or a rather modest 60 percent. Nevertheless, the sale set several new auction records, not least for Raphael, when the artist’s three-quarter-length portrait of Lorenzo de’ Medici sold for £18,500,000 ($37,277,500), above the presale high estimate of £15 million. The buyer was an anonymous collector; the seller was New York art dealer Ira Spanierman, who said he bought the picture (in notably bad condition) for $325 at an auction in 1968. The price is an auction record for an Italian Old Master painting.

The sale also set new auction records for Il Domenichino (£3,044,000 / $6,133,660) -- the picture was bought by New York dealer Otto Naumann -- Lucas Cranach II (£1,812,000 / $3,651,180) and Ferdinand Bol (£994,400 / $2,003,716).

Among the July sales at Sotheby’s New York is an auction of modern and contemporary Indian works of art to benefit the Kolkata Museum of Modern Art in Kolkata, India (a town formerly known as Calcutta). The $150-million project, to be designed by an architect who has not yet been selected, is slated to be completed in 2012. Among the 84 lots, estimated to total $2.3 million-$3.2 million, are Tyeb Mehta’s 1998 portrait of the ancient Hindu goddess Kali (est. $400,000-$600,000), as well as works by J. Sabavala (est. $150,000-$200,000), Rameshwar Broota (est. 4120,000-$180,000), Arpita Singh ($100,000-$150,000) and Subodh Gupta ($50,000-$70,000). The sale, which is the first of its kind in India, was arranged by Rakhi Sarkar, KMOMA’s managing trustee. The works are currently on view at Sotheby’s.

Europe’s toniest Old Master fair, TEFAF Maastricht, is carving out a new space for contemporary art. Spearheaded by new TEFAF chairman Ben Janssens, the 2008 installment of the fair is including "TEFAF Showcase," a special section housing new galleries (i.e., between three to 10 years old). Only five to ten booths are available, and at a rate of only €5,000 each, the spots should be hotly contested. For online application forms, see

For complete, illustrated auction results, see Artnet’s signature Fine Art Auctions Report

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