Christie's benefits as rich shun bonds and shares for art

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The Independent Online

The rich are continuing to pour money into the art market in preference to shares, bonds or property. Christie's International, one of the two leading international art auction houses, said yesterday that turnover in the first half of this year jumped by £111m to £700m as a string of high-profile paintings came under the block. These included Odalisque au fauteil noir by Henri Matisse, which went for £6.6m, and Francis Bacon's triptych of his mistress, Three Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne, which fetched £2.3m.

The rich are continuing to pour money into the art market in preference to shares, bonds or property. Christie's International, one of the two leading international art auction houses, said yesterday that turnover in the first half of this year jumped by £111m to £700m as a string of high-profile paintings came under the block. These included Odalisque au fauteil noir by Henri Matisse, which went for £6.6m, and Francis Bacon's triptych of his mistress, Three Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne, which fetched £2.3m.

The news follows an announcement on Monday by Sotheby's, Christie's main rival, that its auctions raised $1.1bn (£600m) between early April and end-June, 93 per cent ahead of the figure for the same period last year.

Justin Urquhart Stewart, an adviser with Seven Investment Management in London, said: "The financial services industry has brought this upon itself, in that people are thoroughly dissatisfied with the products, advice and returns they are obtaining from traditional investments. Last time round we had a Japanese bank buying Van Gogh's Sunflower, this time it could be Chinese or Russian oligarchs trying to turn their cash into something they can touch and admire."

In Christie's salesrooms around the world, 99 works of art sold for more than $1m in the first half of the year, compared with 87 during the same period last year.

Edward Dolman, the chief executive of Christie's International, said: "We are seeing new buyers coming into our markets from Asia and Russia. In New York, a new breed of Wall Street financier is entering the market at quite a high level. There is absolutely no doubt that the problems associated with getting returns in traditional investment areas have resulted in people investing in our area. There is a significant element of investment and speculation, but the difference from the last boom in the 1980s, when everything went well, is that this time it is concentrated on post-war and contemporary art and jewellery. The incredible success of our sales in Hong Kong, and the record-breaking $104m total of our Post-War & Contemporary Art sales in New York, shows that."

In London, sales of Impressionist, Modern, Post-War and Contemporary Art totalled £66.3m, while the Islamic Art week in April brought a total of £13.9m.

Jussi Pylkkänen, deputy chairman of Christie's UK, said: "The market overall has great depth and we have seen an encouraging number of newer collectors."

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