Global über-collectors out in force for London art sales


Auctioneers are pinning their hopes on "über-collectors" to help London's summer art sales top last year's $1bn (£660m) total when the series kicks off later this month.

Estimates from Christie's, Sotheby's and smaller rivals such as Phillips and Bonhams for sales over the next few weeks show that the paintings, sculptures and furniture under the hammer are on course to defy a sluggish global economy again this year.

The top two houses have put some of their most expensive works, worth more than £192m, on public show until Tuesday at their Mayfair galleries, hoping that pre-sale exhibitions might inspire impulse-buying from serious collectors making the London stop on the art trail.

Christie's, the world's biggest auctioneers, has a star lot that is a price-on-request (estimated to be about £14.7m) diptych by the late 20th-century American painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, and a painting by Wassily Kandinsky, which could set a lifetime record for the Russian Expressionist if it sells north of that price. Its top estimate is £15.9m.

Sotheby's has Claude Monet's Le Palais Contarini with a top estimate of £19.92m as well as paintings by the 18th-century French artist Claude-Joseph Vernet (£4.94m) and David Hockney (£2.95m).

Alongside the Old Masters and modern and fine art, auction houses have included precious objects such as a Georgian coffee pot expected to become the most expensive piece of English silverware ever sold and a 15th-century Virgil manuscript, as well as collectibles such as a watch worn by James Bond in Thunderball and previously unreleased Bob Dylan lyrics.

London, popular with Russian tycoons who have homes in the capital and Middle Eastern buyers just a mid-haul flight away, will also offer sculptures, from antiquities to Alberto Giacometti, Henry Moore and Elisabeth Frink, as well as fine Louis XIV furniture.

A jewelled automaton silkworm and a pair of Louis XVI vases are among the 80 works chosen by Sotheby's for public display, along with a 17th-century El Greco painting and a 1927 piece by Piet Mondrian.