Art world's big spenders help Sotheby's to a billion-pound year


It might seem that everything is crashing down around us in Austerity Britain, but judging by the bumper sales figures disclosed by one London auction house, now could be the perfect time to cash in on those artistic masterpieces gathering dust in your attic.

Sotheby's in London's New Bond Street sold nearly £1bn of fine art in its sales during 2011, according to results filed at Companies House. And with global sales of fine art estimated to have hit £35.8bn last year, it appears Britain is taking a significant chunk.

The biggest sale of the year was Francesco Guardi's Venice, a View of the Rialto Bridge, Looking North, from the Fondamenta del Carbon, which yielded £26.7m. It was later subjected to an export ban by the Culture minister, Ed Vaizey, in order to give potential British buyers the chance to raise enough cash to keep it in the country. Nevertheless, it helped boost total sales at Sotheby's to £931m, up more than £50m on 2010.

One private collection broke several records when it fetched £93.5m last February, including the £23m sale of Francis Bacon's triptych of studies of his fellow painter Lucian Freud, and Salvador Dali's £13.5m portrait of the French poet Paul Eluard.

Other highlights of the year were Egon Schiele's rare cityscape Houses with Colourful Laundry, Suburb II, which fetched £24.7m, and £25.2m for Pablo Picasso's La Lecture.