Leonardo helps lift turnover at Christie's

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The Independent Online
The world's most expensive work of art sold at auction, excluding paintings, Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Hammer, which went for pounds 19.24m to Bill Gates of Microsoft, helped Christie's lift worldwide auction turnover for the August 1994-July 1995 season to pounds 885m.

An improved market for post-impressionist paintings in the January-July 1995 season also pushed sales to their highest since 1989-90. The auction house sold 107 lots for more than pounds 1m during the full year, compared with 83 lots in 1993-94. Of these 49 were impressionist works.Sales for the January-July season rose by 17 per cent - an overall increase of 45 per cent since the 1991-92 season.

Sir Anthony Tennant, chairman, said the increase emphasised a consistent growth trend in the international art market. A steady growth in confidence enticing a number of clients back to the market, including the Japanese, helped sales.

Impressionist and modern picture sales in New York totalled pounds 33m in the autumn and pounds 70m in May, highlights of which included the sale of Van Gogh's Jeune Homme a la Casquette for pounds 8.4m and Picasso's Mere et Enfant at pounds 7.5m.

In London strong prices were achieved for a number of exceptional works including pounds 7.6m for Monet's La Cathedral de Rouen, the highest price paid for an impressionist since June 1990, and pounds 3.7m for Klimt's Bauerngarten.

Sales of jewellery increased 28 per on the back of new regular sales of western jewellery and jadeite in Hong Kong and Singapore and increased demand in Saudi Arabia and South East Asia.

Analysts expect the pressures of the duopoly in the high end of the fine art market between Christie's and its rival auction house Sotheby's to squeeze margins severely in the second half.

Christie's recently announced a change in the commission structure charged to vendors from the often-negotiated flat fee to a non-negotiable sliding scale based on the hammer price from this September.

Top ten selling lots at Christie's 1994-5 season

1) Leonardo da Vinci/Codex Hammer/pounds 19,239,537

2) Vincent Van Gogh, Jeune homme a la casquette/pounds 8,356,073

3) Amedeo Modigliani/Nu assis au collier/pounds 7,819,182

4) Claude Monet/La Cathedrale de Rouen/pounds 7,591,500

5) Pablo Picasso/Mere et enfant/pounds 5,590,190

6) Joan Mir/La Table/pounds 4,731,500

7) Unmounted rectangular-cut fancy pink diamond pounds 4,716,010

8) Fancy deep blue diamond ring/pounds 4,676,563

9) Fancy blue diamond pounds 4,011,576

10) Jean-Francois de Troy/La Lecture de Moliere/pounds 3,961,500