Christies' sales rise 15%

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The Independent Online
Christies International, the British-based auction house and art specialist, said yesterday that its world-wide sales increased to pounds 557m in the first six months of 1997, a rise of 15 per cent over the same period in 1996.

In dollar terms the rise was even higher at 23 per cent. Peter Blythe, Christies' finance director, said the fundamental reason for the sales growth was the rise in the number of wealthy people around the world.

"We've seen a few years of steady growth in the mature economies of the US and UK, while there has been a huge increase in demand from the Far East," Mr Blythe said.

There was also the exceptional success of the Loeb Collection of Impressionist pictures which totalled pounds 57.3m, he said. This New York auction saw Paul Cezanne's portrait of his wife, Madame Cezanne au fauteil jaune, go for pounds 14,260,802.

Sales growth had been steady since the low point of the recession in 1991, said Mr Blythe. "The international art market tends to lag both on the way up and on the way down," he said. Christies sold no less than 75 works of art for $1m or more in the first half of this year, compared with 59 items in the same period last year.

Auctions through Hong Kong were doing particularly well from new wealthy entrepreneurs from countries like Indonesia and Korea, Mr Blythe said.

Christies' shares closed down 2p to 293.5p.