'Funny Girl' has last laugh in sale

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IN HER home in Beverly Hills in California, Barbra Streisand, the actress and singer, and director, was on the phone for much of Thursday afternoon.

She was not saying much, though: she was listening to an auction at Christie's in New York of her decorative arts collection. At the end of Thursday's session, the first of a two-day sale, it had totalled dollars 5.77m (pounds 3.87m) topping the estimate for the entire auction by dollars 1.3m.

She was listening as A 1932 painting by Tamara de Lempicka, Adam and Eve, which she bought for dollars 135,000 in 1984, fetched dollars 1.98m (pounds 1.33m). It stole the show, breaking the record for the artist, considered one of the best-known Art Deco female painters. The estimate was dollars 600,000 to dollars 800,000.

The celebrity touch may have accounted for many of the individual pieces doubling or tripling their pre-sale estimates, and only one of 178 items failing to sell. Among them, a Cartier jade clock, in a Shinto temple gate design, sold for dollars 316,000 (pounds 212,000), more than double the estimated price.

Ms Streisand, 52, one of Hollywood's highest-paid stars since rising who rose to fame in Funny Girl, started collecting at the age of 16 while looking for her big break. into acting. It She began with handmade beaded bags, and satin shoes with elaborate buckles, and went on to Tiffany lamps. 'I don't know where a person gets an eye because I didn't grow up with a sense of it around me . . . For as long as I can remember, I've had the desire to surround myself with beautiful objects.'

By the 1970s, Tiffany glass had became her great passion. An important 'cobweb' lamp which sold yesterday for dollars 717,500 (pounds 481,544), she bought in 1979 for dollars 55,000. it was however yesterday expected to make up to dollars 1m. 'I thought it was fascinating,' Ms Streisand said. 'But . . . who ever spent dollars 55,000 on a lamp?' Her decision to sell was prompted by a wish She was selling to 'simplysimplify my life'. She wants two houses instead of seven, 'and I don't want so many things anymore'.

However, because she had expressed regret at selling her music-stand, her manager Martin Erlichman called her at the end of the auction to tell her he had bought it back for her, as a gift.