Buyers snap up Forbes collection of Orientalists

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The Independent Online
PART OF a massive collection built up by Malcolm S Forbes, the late magazine publisher, was sold by Christie's in New York on Thursday.

Of about 400 works by Orientalists - 19th-century western artists captivated by the romance of the near East - four failed to find buyers. Almost every lot doubled or tripled its estimate, taking the total to dollars 2.97m ( pounds 1.97m), against an estimated dollars 1.2m to dollars 1.8m.

Forbes amassed about 500 Victorian pictures, as well as 300 pieces of Faberge, more than 100,000 toy soldiers, several thousand paintings, more than 5,000 US presidential documents and 500 toy boats. That is only part of it. The collection is so large it needs a full-time director and four members of staff.

The Orientalist works had been displayed in Forbes magazine's Tangier Palace, the company's North African base. But most of the collection is displayed in the company's 1920s building in New York. Art is everywhere - even in the corporate gym.

His son, Kip Forbes, said his father thought that a company with art in the lobby gave the impression that 'business must be good'.

Margaret Kelly, the director of the art collection, said that as Forbes was one of the few family-owned publishing houses left in the US, there were no difficulties in selling off part of its collection: 'The money will be funnelled back into the corporation to purchase more art. The emphasis will go towards American pictures, partly because Forbes owns the American Heritage magazine.'

Christie's described the Orientalist works as the most comprehensive collection to have appeared at auction. Among the most sought-after works were Hermann David Salomon Corrodi's An Arab Encampment at Sunset, which made pounds 233,500 ( pounds 154,640) and Leon Bonnat's The Barber of Suez, which made dollars 123,500 ( pounds 81,788). Their respective records, set in 1992, were dollars 66,929 and dollars 42,000.

The Art Sales Index, which lists more than 85,000 sale results for the 1992-93 international auction season, shows that world-wide turnover has increased by 23 per cent. UK turnover is up by 27 per cent.

(Photograph omitted)