Tag Archives: auction

Lesedi la Rona Diamond at Sotheby’s Auction

If you have more $70 million in spare change just lying around and don’t know what to do with it, then maybe you should head down to Sotheby’s London on June 29 and convert it into something easier to handle. The auction house will be hosting a stand-alone auction for the largest rough diamond in existence on that day. How big is it? Just look at the picture above for some context!

The find is one of high significance as this is the largest gem-quality rough diamond to have been discovered in more than 100 years. At 1,109-carats, the gem comes from the Karowe mine in Botswana and has been named Lesedi la Rona or “Our Light “in the Tswana language. Boasting exceptional quality and transparency, the diamond is thought to be somewhere around 2.5 to 3 million years old. Experts at the Gemological Institute of America have found that the color and transparency of the gem ensures there is no nitrogen or boron present in the gem. Only 2% of all gemstone-quality diamonds fall into this highly prized category.

“The Lesedi la Rona is simply outstanding and its discovery is the find of a lifetime” said David Bennett, Worldwide Chairman of Sotheby’s Jewelry Division. “It is a huge honor for Sotheby’s to have been entrusted with its sale. Every aspect of this auction is unprecedented. Not only is the rough superlative in size and quality, but no rough even remotely of this scale has ever been offered before at public auction” he added.

It remains to be seen if the gem will be able to yield the largest-top-quality diamond but the likelihood of it resulting in in a “D” color polished diamond is high. The only other rough gem diamond to beat the Lesedi la Rona is none other than the Cullinan Diamond from South Africa that weighed 3,106.75-carats. Mined in 1905, the diamond produced nine diamonds that now sit in the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. The most significant of the nine diamonds, is none other than the Cullinan I or Great Star of Africa at 530.20-carats, that is still the largest top-quality polished diamond known to man.

Who knows, maybe the Queen would like to add to her collection of gems, much like her grandfather King Edward.

 

Proust Archives to be Auctioned at Sotheby’s

Nowadays, reading Marcel Proust is usually seen as some sort of literary milestone – another mark to tick off on the must-read classics checklist (and something that this writer admits he has yet to achieve). That’s one of the downsides of having your novel be widely known as the ‘longest novel in the world’. Of course, anyone who takes a peek into the one-million-words-plus of Remembrance of Things Past knows that the writer holds much more than that mere record.

Arguably, this mammoth work is the most important single novel ever published in the Western world. To honor the writer’s legacy, Sotheby’s announced that it will be holding a sale of some 120 items from Proust’s personal archives in Paris (sold by the writer’s 41-year-old great-grand-niece Patricia Mante-Proust) – including a hand-corrected proof, photographs, and letters. The auction will commence May 31.

Remembrance of Things Past stands as a gigantic tome that defies any genre classification or convention, being partially autobiographical, though also fictional, and collecting together memories, dreams, events, and philosophical ideas into one great tapestry. Scholars have been excavating the book for ages, trying to track down the real life analogues to the characters, places, and works of art that Proust describes. Thus, pieces from the archives will probably be of great interest to any serious fan.

Some of the notable items are the photos, which depict Proust, his family, and close friends Lucien Daudet and Reynaldo Hahn, who were also his lovers. These hold special literary interest as well, since Proust’s sexuality was only revealed after his death, and it is widely speculated that the author hid traits of his lovers within some of the main female characters of the book. One of the images shows Daudet casting a dreamy gaze at Proust, while leaning an arm on the writer as another friend stands off to one side. The 1896 picture was deemed compromising, and the writer was ordered by his parents to get back any prints of it in circulation.

Also of literary note in the sale are letters from Proust to his father, who did not accept literature as a proper profession. The narrator’s relationship with his parents is also a theme in the novel, which famously opens with a description of his night terrors as a child and his dependence on his mother for comfort.

The crown jewel of the sale will most likely be the actual handwritten proofs for “In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower”, the second part of Remembrance, that includes crossed out passages and corrections. An original edition of “Swann’s Way”, the first volume of Remembrance, which was published in 1913, will also go up for sale. Experts estimate the entire collection will go for 520,000 to 740,000 euros ($600,000 to $850,000).

The daunting Proust has held a certain appeal for decades, and will probably continue to do so until someone churns out the next humongous tome worth looking at (though, the contender for the Proust of this century is the Norwegian Karl Ove Knausgård and his six-novel long autobiography). And for those who haven’t poked at it yet, perhaps it’s time to take a dip into “Swann’s Way”…

This story was written in-house, with an AFP report as background and multiple sources. Image courtesy of Gallimard

Artcurial Auctions Jewelry, Retro Fashion Items

Two collections will go on sale at Paris auction house Artcurial (with its new Hermès Vintage & Fashion Arts department) as a part of its Haute Couture auction on July 4: a collection of haute couture jewelry created for the collections of fashion designers, and items from the catwalk collections of 1980s fashion designer Elisabeth de Senneville. Both collections together provide a good juxtaposition of high elegance and innovative retro fashion.

For those who aren’t exactly sure what the term ‘haute couture jewelry’ means, these were specially crafted jewels made to embellish the collections of the biggest fashion names. The craftsmen worked in close collaboration with fashion houses including Christian Dior, Balenciaga, Chanel and Givenchy to provide small series of jewelry for a handful of wealthy clients. This art form originated in the mid- and late 1930s, before falling out of favor at the end of the 1970s. One hundred such pieces from names such as Roger Jean-Pierre, Maison Gripoix, Roger Scemama and Robert Goossens will appear in the sale.

On the other side, 130 pieces from Elisabeth de Senneville’s archives are set to go under the hammer, with items such as flannelette or brushed cotton garments printed with her “furniture” or “photo story” motifs, as well as sweaters, coats and jackets made from technical fabrics. Her brilliant use of monographing in her pieces is especially notable and even ahead of its time when you consider the proliferation of images resulting from the digital age. The auction celebrates the designer’s avant-garde, artistic and experimental spirit of absolute sincerity.

These two private collections will be accompanied at auction by a selection of Louis Vuitton trunks, Chanel leather goods and haute couture gowns from Christian Dior, Pierre Cardin, Nina Ricci, Yves Saint Laurent and Paul Poiret. Before the auction itself, the lots will be exhibited July 1-4, 2016, at Artcurial’s Paris showroom, located at 7 rond-point des Champs-Elysées.

You can check out more information over at Artcurial’s website here.

Get the Look: “Purple Rain” Jacket at Auction

The music world might have lost another great but Prince’s wardrobe looks set to create a legacy of its own. The V-neck black and white jacket with leather sleeves – yes, the one in the 1984 film Purple Rain – first appeared in the famous scene where he picked up his co-star Apollonia Kotero.  The iconic piece will go under the hammer, alongside other memorable costumes from Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Alicia Keys and a pair of Swarovski-embellished gloves Michael Jackson wore during his “Dangerous” tour in 1992. Bids for the jacket will start somewhere between $6,000 to $8,000, but of course bids are expected to go much higher at the Profiles in History auction in June.

prince_purplerain

Following his sudden passing on April 21 at his Paisley Park Estate, the influential singer sparked a revived interest in his work, with Purple Rain now showing in more than 150 theaters in the United States.

Burgundy, Bordeaux Wines Bound for Historic Auction

Baghera Wines is holding a special wine auction on May 22 in Geneva, which will include 1,407 bottles of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and 3,000 bottles of the finest Bordeaux.

The executive director of Baghera Wine, Michael Ganne, says that this auction is the most important of the last 20 years in continental Europe. The Burgundy winegrowing region of France will take pride of place with its highly renowned Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

It will be a historic moment as 266 lots, or 1,407 bottles, will be auctioned off, with buyers getting their hands on millésimes from as far back as 1966. Bidding will begin at CHF1,600 (approx. €1,450) for a bottle of La Tâche 1966, while a lot of twelve bottles of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 1988 has an estimate of CHF120,000 (approx. €109,000).

The importance of the auction is also reflected in the high-end Bordeaux wines, which will be up for grabs. A Château Yquem collection from 1848 to 1976 will go on sale, while a bottle of Yquem 1848 has an estimate of CHF15,000 (approx. €13,600). The sale will include big Bordeaux names such as Lafite-Rothschild (1966), Margaux (1990), Mouton-Rothschild (1982, 2000), Haut-Brion (1945, 1989), Cheval-Blanc (1947), Ausone (1996) and Pétrus (2000).

The auction has a total of 612 lots, with an estimate of CHF6-9 million (approx. €5,500,000).

Lot 549: 1 bottle of Château d'Yquem, 1867. © Baghera Wines

Lot 549: 1 bottle of Château d’Yquem, 1867. © Baghera Wines

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Christie’s Auctions Jewels from Princess Gabriela

It is not every day one can stand a chance to own jewelry that once belonged to royalty. On May 18, Christie’s will give you that opportunity with the sale of exquisite jewels that include several from the collection of H.S.H Gabriela Princess zu Leiningen. The former spouse of the current Aga Khan is letting go of a few memorable and personal pieces that were gifted to her by her second husband (The first being the Prince of Leiningen, hence her title). Before the sale however, the jewels will be on display in Geneva from May 13; the collection is currently making its way to New York as part of a tour.

The Pohl diamond, 36.09 carats

The Pohl diamond, 36.09 carats

“Sophisticated and classically beautiful, H.S.H Gabriela Princess zu Leiningen’s extensive collection is a true reflection of its owner. A woman of charisma, wisdom, elegance and above all joy” said François Curiel. The Chairman of Christie’s Asia Pacific added “ Each jewel represents a special moment in her life and the happiness she experienced at the time. We are honored to present superb jewels from her collection and extend to all the wonderful karma it brings.”

The Princess Colombian emerald and diamond necklace, by Cartier, the pendant weighing 39.70 carats.

The Princess Colombian emerald and diamond necklace, by Cartier, the pendant weighing 39.70 carats.

The 46 lots set to go under the hammer in Geneva are estimated to be worth over $15 million. Bidders can expect to see spectacular items from Cartier, Boucheron, Tiffany & Co. and Van Cleef & Arpels. We highlight several key pieces that will certainly excite any avid jewelry collector. The first is the Pohl Diamond. What makes this 36-carat diamond so special is that it was the very first significant diamond that was polished in America (most diamonds are polished in Europe, India or Israel) before it was sold to the Chrysler family in 1943. Having been mined nearly a decade earlier as a 287-carat rough stone, the diamond came into the possession of the princess in 1998 and is now estimated to be worth $3.8 — 5.5 million.

The cultured pearl, diamond and yellow diamond fringe necklace

The cultured pearl, diamond and yellow diamond fringe necklace

The next is a creation by Cartier that would make any woman swoon. The diamond and emerald necklace features a 40-carat Colombian emerald. Worth somewhere between $2.5 — 3.5 million, the necklace with the matching earrings was worn at the official dinner that followed the wedding of Prince Felipe of Spain and Letizia Ortiz back in 2004. The other highlight in the collection is the cultured pearl and diamond fringe necklace. Its owner before coming into the possession of the princess was her former husband’s grandmother, Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan. Upon entering her enviable collection of jewelry, a matching pair of ear pendants and a bangle was commissioned from Van Cleef & Arpels to make a complete parure.

The "Persepolis" necklace

The “Persepolis” necklace

Other pieces that will certainly get your attention, include a suite of emerald, diamond and pearl jewelry from Cartier, an elegant five strand pearl and diamond necklace as well as the “Persepolis” necklace and pair of “Persane” earrings. With graduated emerald bead drops and a larger emerald beat pendant suspended, the suite also features a briolette-cut diamond and oval cabochon emerald surmount. The five strand pearl necklace is made up of nearly 500 natural pearls and daimond roundel spacers.With emeralds, diamonds and sapphires of several cuts, the “Persepolis” neckalce and “Persane” earrings are a set that certainly cannot be missed.

The elegant five strand pearl and diamond necklace

The elegant five strand pearl and diamond necklace

“Aside from their beauty, many of these jewels bare a compelling history of their own” said the Princess. She added “To me they embody wonderful and loving personal memories as well as exciting chapters of my life, full of color, travel and encounters. They have brought me great joy and happiness. Now I wish their journey to continue, bringing joy and happiness to their new owners.”

The sale will be held on May 18, 7pm at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues in Geneva. For more information on the auction, visit Christie’s.

Letter Detailing Queen Elizabeth Romance Sold

On Saturday, one private collector walked away from an auction at Chippenham Auction Rooms in southwest England with a rare handwritten letter from Queen Elizabeth. The letter, written nearly seven decades before by the, then—Princess Elizabeth, recounted the early years of her meetings and romance with the man who was born a prince of Greece and Denmark.

The love story that now sees the couple in their nineties, with great-grandchildren, has weathered many a storm. While the letter does not feature detailed accounts such as the time she threw her shoe at the Duke of Edinburgh in a fit of rage, it does give us a first hand account of how the relationship first began. Sold for £14,400 ($20,750, 18,475 euros), the letter was written to author Betty Shew for her book Royal Wedding as a wedding gift.

“The first time I remember meeting Philip was at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, in July 1939, just before the war. (We may have met before at the coronation or the Duchess of Kent’s wedding, but I don’t remember),” the future monarch wrote.

“I was 13 years of age and he was 18 and a cadet just due to leave. He joined the Navy at the outbreak of war, and I only saw him very occasionally when he was on leave — I suppose about twice in three years.

“Then when his uncle and aunt, Lord and Lady Mountbatten, were away he spent various weekends away with us at Windsor. Then he went to the Pacific and Far East for two years as everyone there will know.”

She said the wedding ring was to be made of Welsh gold and her fiance designed it himself.

“I don’t know the history of the stone, except that it is a very fine old cutting. It was given to me not long before the engagement was announced.”

She told of how Prince Philip danced with her at two London nightclubs and spent six weeks with the royals at Balmoral, their Scottish private retreat.

“We both love dancing — we have danced at Ciro’s and Quaglino’s as well at parties,” she wrote.

“We first started seeing more of each other when Philip went for a two-year job to the R.N Petty Officers School at Corsham — before that we hardly knew each other.”

 

Ferrari 275 NART Spider Most Expensive at Auction?

There were only 10 of these made, and the last time one of them came up, it fetched $27.9 million. The Ferrari 275 GTS/4 NART Spider could easily make it to the top 10 list of most expensive cars auctioned, once bidding starts on May 14 at the biennial RM Sotheby’s Monaco auction. Sotheby’s already set it up with a very conservative €19 million ($21 million) estimate.

For that matter, the most expensive car auctioned happens to be a Ferrari 250 GTO ($38,098,927), and with the exception of Fangio’s 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 F1 car (third place, $30,069,371), the rest of the top 10 are all Ferraris. Classic Ferraris are gaining value in the field to the point that models built as recently as the mid-1990s are starting to see some healthy appreciation. Will this be the point where the bubble is primed to burst? Either way, the NART Spider’s sleek styling and performance aims to at least ensure some kind of record.

Ferrari-NART-Spider-Interior-Auction

The car represents a combination of Italian engineering and American ingenuity. US Ferrari importer and race team owner Luigi Chinetti pitched the idea of a roofless take of the 274 GTB/4 to Enzo Ferrari himself, exclusive to the US market and each carrying Chinetti’s NART (North American Racing Team) badge. Due to the overwhelming expenses, production only stopped at 10.

“It is a privilege to present this NART Spider,” said Rob Myers, Chairman and CEO, RM Sotheby’s “Its offering at auction is such an extraordinary event. Ownership of a NART Spider represents membership in a club of only nine other enthusiasts around the world. If a Ferrari is the choice of car connoisseurs, then the NART Spider is the choice of Ferrari connoisseurs.”

Come May, whoever gets their hands on the tasteful red sheen and elegant form of the NART Spider, will surely have something worth bragging about.

L’Eternal Printemps by Rodin Set for Auction

Created by the French artist in 1884, the “L’Eternal Printemps” (French for “Eternal Springtime”) will appear at auction for the first time May 9 at Sotheby’s in New York with an estimated opening bid of $8 to $12 million.

Carved from single block of marble, this graceful two-figure work was modeled during Ronin’s intense period of activity for The Gates of Hell, evoking the inappropriate euphoria of two young lovers despite the tragedy being played out on The Gates. Its appearance in May will be the first time in two decades that a Rodin marble sculpture will appear on the market. It is thought to be one of 10 such sculptures, all on the same subject.

In February 2016, Rodin’s cast of “Iris, Messagère des dieux” broke auction records when it sold for $16.7 million at Sotheby’s in London.

Shirley Temple Blue Diamond Fails to Sell

She was the child-star who brought joy to the Depression-era movie-going audience with her performances and innocence. Despite her success at that time, it seems that her star power has not translated to into an ability to sell personal objects. Her 9.54-carat blue diamond ring went under the hammer at a Sotheby’s New York auction for an estimated $25-35 million, but failed to find a buyer. It was originally a present from her father who bought it for $7,210 back in 1940.

Shirley Temple started acting at age three, and became the youngest person to win an Oscar in 1935 (aged six), with a special award for young performances that is no longer presented. She went on to star in more than 40 films, most of them before age 12. Later in her life, she followed up her career in show business by serving as a diplomat under four presidents. Temple died at the age of 85 in 2014.

“The Shirley Temple Blue Diamond is an exceptional stone in quality, rarity and provenance. It has been an honor to share its story with collectors, connoisseurs and Temple’s loyal fans over the past few months… Unfortunately, tonight wasn’t its night in the salesroom, but we remain fully confident that it will find a buyer.” the auction house said.

In a star-saturated media climate, with so many new names breaking out young on platforms like Youtube, the Shirley Temple phenomenon is perhaps no longer in effect. Perhaps a long nostalgic fan, brought up on a diet of silver screen icons Greta Garbo and Katharine Hepburn may want to pick up the gem in the future.

Chinese Collector Liu Yiqian Aims West

Chinese tycoon Liu Yiqian is known for snapping up expensive Chinese antiques… and sometimes even drinking from them too, with his infamous sip from a valuable porcelain Ming dynasty cup. The high profile art collector even has his collection displayed in the museum he himself founded in Shanghai. Last year, in an aggressive act of ‘cultural exchange’, Liu splashed out more than $170 million at Christie’s for Modigliani’s Nu Couche (Reclining Nude), making it the second highest price ever paid at auction for a work of art.

“The world is globalized…our collection is mainly Chinese traditional works of art, (but) we are going to expand into Western and Asian works. I hope in my life time I can collect more from both China and the West,” he told AFP in a recent interview at Christie’s regional headquarters in Hong Kong. Indeed, he plans to showcase the work at his museum next year, invoking a “social responsibility” to enable Chinese youngsters to experience the Western masters.

With a personal wealth of $1.38 billion, according to Forbes magazine, Liu is among the ranks of the new Chinese super-rich. He made his fortune in real estate and finance, and now runs a huge conglomerate across several industries from chemicals to investments. Among other Chinese pieces he’s purchased includes a painting by Chinese master Zhang Daqian for $35.93 million at Sotheby’s; a $45 million 15th-century Tibetan “thangka” tapestry at a Christie’s auction; and an $8.2 million purchase of an “ancient” scroll of nine Chinese characters, which led to more controversy when he brushed off a group of respected Chinese experts deriding it as fake.

Of course, some Western art connoisseurs were concerned at the time. The Mayor of Modigliani’s hometown (Livorno, Italy) commented that the Italian government should have spent money to acquire the painting so that it could have been retained locally. In the interview with AFP though, Liu noted that “It doesn’t matter where they are. The most important thing is for them to be preserved”.

“Other than Chinese traditional and contemporary works of art, younger generations in China have developed deeper recognition of Western works,” he said, relaxing in an armchair and talking through a haze of cigarette smoke. We can’t exactly say whether Liu is really aiming for true cultural good, or merely following art-collecting as a fashion, as countless have already spoken out on after the incident with the Ming cup, but we hope that things turn out the best for the cultural landscape of the world out there.

Pop Artist Peter Blake Creates Unique Bentley

The Peter Blake-styled Bentley Continental GT V8 S Convertible seems like a straight call-back to some older, bolder and altogether kitschier past. It has an exterior decorated with primary colors and strong geometric shapes, right down to the massively unambiguous heart shape painted on the hood. Honestly, it makes us think of Janis Joplin’s Porsche

The pop artist’s claim to fame was his pop-collages but he achieved special renown with his design for the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band Beatles album cover. Now he’s collaborating with Bentley for a one-off model that will be auctioned by Bonhams (as a part of this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed) on June 24 for charity.

In this case, all proceeds from the sale will go to the Care2Save Charitable Trust, which provides palliative and hospice care around the world. “The end of someone’s life should bring dignity, love and comfort both to the person who is dying and all those who care about them. We hope that this amazing car will deliver a lasting legacy of care,” said Andrea Ladeira, CEO of Care2Save. This charity also has another initiative involving Bentley that we find very clever indeed.

“I am proud to have been involved with transforming this beautiful car, and have enormous admiration for the people at Bentley who brought my design into being, to produce this one-off lovely car” said Blake. Blake’s art in general has been known to consist of a palpable sense of play, especially with the mixing up of old styles and new styles of art. Transferring that sense of play into a luxury product creates within the vehicle a certain exclusivity and of course nostalgic value.

Besides the exterior adornment, the Bentley will also feature the artist’s signature embroidered on the car’s leather seats, and even a playlist pre-loaded into the infotainment system of Blake’s all-time favorite songs. The finished product was completed with Bentley’s famous team of leather, paint and wood experts at their bespoke division, Mulliner.

With this marriage of artistry and established elegance, you can be sure that those avid collectors looking for models with that special je ne sais quoi will have something to whet their appetite. Find out more about the regular production car here.

This story was written in-house, based on an AFP report and other sources.

David Bowie Signed Sheet Music at Auction

The movie Velvet Goldmine, an affectionate homage to the glam rock movement directed by Todd Haynes, depicts a glam rock star faking his own death as a celebrity stunt, leading to a massive critical backlash by his fans that destroys his career. This year, David Bowie reversed that narrative, almost as if he planned it the way. He pushed out his best album in ages and made everyone think that not only was he coming back, but that he was primed to be even better than before. For those of us still hurt by his sudden departure, we have no choice but to try and grasp at the straws of the memory. Attaching ourselves to memorabilia is a symptom of this – so auction site eSolidar is offering up signed sheet music on sale, with the proceeds going to charity.

We wonder if this would be what the star wanted. Bowie was an anomaly in that he was an alien who took over the world – the man who fell to earth as it were. He was bizarre and aimed, in every instance, to try and subvert the mainstream, but ended up defining it. He sang about alienation and identity while dressed in flamboyant or androgynous outfits, laying the foundation for later stars like Lady Gaga and Madonna. Would a star so out of place be comfortable with being situated so firmly in the cultural memory? Well, given that the proceeds will go to humanitarian organization Oxfam, I guess he’ll let it slide.

All this forms as a part of The Music Circle’s annual celebrity jumble sale – Rumble in the Jumble, which will take place May 14 at east London’s iconic multi-purpose venue Oval Space. This sheet, in particularly, is for the track ‘Blue Jean’ from his 1984 album Tonight. Unfortunately, that album is considerably less notable than his earlier opuses, like Ziggy Stardust (1972), or the influentially experimental Berlin Trilogy (1976-1977). Still, we make do with what we have. The sheet music will also come framed with two photographs of the singer.

Those who want to participate can just follow the link here. At the very least, if the binge-listening to multiple runs of Blackstar doesn’t work in helping to cope, then this may be an alternative.

This story was written in-house, with an image from the AFP (© AFP Photo / Bertrand Guay).

J.K. Rowling Chair Sells for Close to $400,000

The chair J.K Rowling sat on as she churned out the Harry Potter series has sold at auction for $394,000, some 14 times the price it last fetched at auction in 2009. The modest 1930s-era oak chair, part of mismatched set of four was sold in New York, in an auction we reported on in the previous version of this story. Adorned all over the chair are words in pink, gold, and green paint. Pre-bidding for the chair over the net reached $65,000 earlier this week.

“This was the comfiest one, which is why it ended up stationed permanently in front of my typewriter, supporting me while I typed,” Rowling wrote in a letter accompanying the chair that Heritage Auctions, the house in charge of the sale, placed on their website. “My nostalgic side is quite sad to see it go, but my back isn’t,” she added.

The words written in paint includes her signature, and the words “You may not find me pretty but don’t judge what you see” on the back rest, and “I wrote Harry Potter while sitting on this chair” on the wooden frame around the cushion. The front legs are also marked by lightning, invoking the famous lightning-scar of the boy wizard, painted on it.

Rowling donated the chair in 2002 to an auction benefitting the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children after adding the paint. The chair sold at auction again in 2009 for $29,117, Heritage Auctions said.

The Harry Potter series has been translated into 67 languages and sold more than 450 million copies, as well as become  a series of box office record-breaking films that made Rowling the first female novelist billionaire. Perhaps just a little bit of that writing magic may be left inside the chair for the next hopeful author who uses it. At the price it fetched though, we are quite sure the current owner (no names are forthcoming) is something other than a struggling writer…

Diamond, Scroll Set Auction Records in Asia

Despite the China market blues, a rare blue diamond and a painting by Chinese master Zhang Daqian broke auction records at Sotheby’s April 5. The De Beers Millennium Jewel 4 raked in HK$248.29 million ($31.8 million) at the Hong Kong auction, just hours after a scroll painting by Zhang Daqian sold for a record-breaking HK$270.68 million ($35.93 million).

The 10.10 carat vivid blue diamond broke the record for the most expensive piece of jewelry sold at auction in Asia, but at the lower end of estimates which predicted it would fetch between $30 and $35 million.

Slightly larger than an almond, it is described by Sotheby’s as the largest oval blue diamond ever to appear at auction and “internally flawless”. It was sold to an anonymous phone bidder.

“It was a very successful sale,” Sotheby’s international jewelry division worldwide chairman David Bennett said.

“The fact that it’s a record price for jewelry in Asia I think speaks well about the Asian market… I think it’s alive and well and very healthy,” Bennett said.

The sale came hours after a scroll painting by Chinese master Zhang Daqian sold for a record-breaking HK$270.68 million ($35.93 million), also at Sotheby’s.

It was snapped up by Chinese collector Liu Yiqian’s Shanghai museum — the latest in a string of massive buys associated with the former taxi driver turned tycoon.

Zhang’s splashed ink and color scroll outstripped the top-end pre-sale estimate of HK$65 million, breaking the record for the artist’s work at auction.

A buyer from Liu’s Long Museum ended hour-long bidding for the work, entitled “Peach Blossom Spring”, with more than 100 bids cast.

The sales comes despite a slowdown in the Chinese economy which expanded 6.9 percent in 2015, the worst performance in a quarter of a century and a far cry from years of double-digit increases.

There are fears that the combination of the Chinese economic slowdown and an anti-corruption drive by President Xi Jinping could hit the Asia market — both Sotheby’s and Christie’s posted lower totals at their autumn sales last year in Hong Kong compared with the two preceding years.

Liu, who has been making record-setting purchases at auctions in the past few years, stunned the art world when he bought a famed nude by Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani costing more than $170 million in November.

He set a record for Chinese porcelain in 2014 by paying over $36 million for a tiny Ming Dynasty cup depicting a rooster and hen tending to their chicks, know as the “chicken cup”.

Liu made world headlines by drinking from the cup after he bought it.

Auctioneers say despite China’s economic downturn, there is still demand for top quality collectibles, and demand stretches across Asia.

The “Seal of the Mandate of Heaven” which belonged to the Kangxi Emperor, the longest reigning Chinese monarch, is to be auctioned on Wednesday at Sotheby’s as part of its spring sales season, with a starting at a price of HK$50 million.

Pope’s Fiat Auctions for $300,000

Nope, we’re not talking about a holy decree or something and yes we are making a rare visit to Fiat in this story. At more than 12 times its base price ($24,695), a black Fiat 500 Lounge used by Pope Francis while visiting New York was auctioned for $300,000 by the auction website Charitybuzz. No word if this is the most expensive Fiat ever sold at auction but it is possible.

The Fiat was bought by millionaire businessman Miles Nadal, and proceeds from the auction will go to Catholic schools and charities, as well as the Catholic Relief Services and the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

The Fiat was one of two such Popemobiles that ferried the pontiff around the Big Apple. “In a couple of occasions, (Pope Francis) was in the Popemobile. For the rest of his time, when he was not in the Popemobile, this is how he traveled around in the motorcade,” New York Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling told AFP. The second Fiat will also be used to raise money for charitable causes, though there are no set plans yet, he added.

The Charitybuzz auction began March 17, with the first bid coming in at $10,500. On Wednesday, it jumped to $195,000 before hitting $300,000 Thursday. While it’s not exactly sure how much of that translates into divine credit at the pearly gates, this shows, at least, how much value the Vatican adds here on Earth to a Fiat 500 Lounge.

Sotheby’s Asian Art Sales Kicks Off

A total of 170 lots will be up for auction at Sotheby’s across three sales featuring contemporary Asian art from some of the best-known artists from the region and beyond. “Brushwork: From Asia to the World” and “Modern and Contemporary Asian Art Evening Sale” will take place April 3 while “The Contemporary Asian Art Day Sale” follows on April 4. The total estimated worth will be in excess of $23 million.

Ai Wei Wei Grapes

Ai Wei Wei Grapes

“Brushwork: From Asia to the World” is a specially curated auction with 20 abstract works – based on the idea of reinterpreting brushwork by post-war artists from the East and West and their mutual influences on each other. Tools used in the creation of some of these works include knives, gunpowder, as well as bare hands and feet. This auction will include work by Asian artists Kazuo Shiraga, Jiro Yoshihara, Cai Guo-Qiang, Park Seobo, as well as American and French artists Sam Francis and Pierre Soulages.

Yayoi Kusama Infinity Nets (OQABT)

Yayoi Kusama Infinity Nets (OQABT)

The “Modern and Contemporary Asian Art Evening Sale” has some of the higher valued works in all. Ai Weiwei is one of the notables here, with his “Grapes” going up at an estimated $513,000 – $769,000. The work is made up of 35 wooden stools from the Qing dynasty stuck together with mortise and tenon joints, creating a spiky ball of furniture supposedly resembling a cluster of grapes – as a callback to Dadaist readymades.

Liu Wei's The Revolutionary Family Tripytch

Liu Wei’s The Revolutionary Family Tripytch

Also featured is “The Revolutionary Family Series (triptych)” by Liu Wei ($3.8 – $5.1 million), and Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity-Nets (OQABT)” ($1.5 – $1.9 million) – a part of his widely recognized Infinity Nets Series.

The “Contemporary Asian Art Day Sale” will have, among others, post-war paper works. This medium has been often overlooked but there will be contributions by artists such as Kusama, Lee Ufan, Yamaguchi Takeo and Kim Tschangyeul. These works offer insight into each artist’s distinct brushwork, composition, lines and colors.

The three auctions will take place at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre will hopefully shed more light on the Asian art scene as a whole. Watchful observers will be looking for any further signs of strains in the market, as we reported here. For more information on the upcoming auctions visit: http://www.sothebys.com/en/inside/locations-worldwide/hong-kong/overview.html

Slump in Chinese Art Sales Reported

A report end March revealed that the Chinese art market was in a slump, with auction sales of living artists’ works falling by 45%. Even so, China surpassed the US as home to the largest population of billionaires in the world last year, which indicates an increase in the pool of super-wealthy art collectors. The reasons for the reported slump may slowing growth (the world’s second-largest economy slowed to its weakest in a quarter of a century last year at 6.9 percent) and the widely reported corruption crackdown by President Xi Jinping.

“A heady mix of the continued anti-corruption campaign, which has put a stop to gifting art to government officers, and a slowdown in the economy have combined to see both sales and the number of top works at auction pretty much halve,” said Hurun Report chairman Rupert Hoogewerf.

The Hurun Report collates the auction results for the 100 most lucrative artists and slowdown in sales was first captured here. For this report, the sales for the 100 artists totaled $56.5 billion, with only three female artists on the list. The most valuable artist was ink painter Cui Ruzhuo, known for his large scale traditional landscapes. Cui’s works fetched $120.4 million, far ahead of second-placed oil painter Zeng Fanzhi, who saw his sales value crash by 62 percent. There were no figures on whether the average price of individual works had decreased. An odd entry included Jack Ma, CEO of Internet giant Alibaba, who was included solely for a collaborative painting he did with Zeng Fanzhi that sold at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong for $5.3 million.

Some artists seem to be unfazed though, preferring to stick to the merits of their own work over material gain. Huang Jiannan ranked seventh on Hurun’s list and saw the auction value of his works drop by 45 percent last year, but he shrugged off the loss. “These statistics measure the flow of my works in the market – it has nothing to do with me. I don’t get the money from these sales directly,” he told AFP.

Critics such as Xie Chunyan believe that focusing on auction values is a poor judge of Chinese artists’ worth, noting that “Just because this little British guy Hoogewerf says he wants to find a common standard to measure things 1, 2, 3 doesn’t mean that this is the best method”.

Though many believe China’s art market has been overheated in recent years, Cui seemed positive and had a message of proactivity to other artists. “Our current downturn and backwardness shouldn’t discourage us; we artists should unite together and for the sake of our art market and our nation walk out towards the world, hand in hand, striving ardently together,” he said. All this seems to indicate one thing, no matter what happens to the market, and no matter whether for sales, aesthetics, or national sentiment, artists will still make art.

Francis Bacon Self-Portrait Auction in May

The famous painter of tortured expressive psychological landscapes, Francis Bacon, will have a self-portrait of his go on sale on May 11 at Sotheby’s New York. This is the first time “Two Studies for a Self-Portrait” (1970) has been at auction ever; since it was completed, it remained in the same private collection. The painting is worth an estimated $22-30 million.

Bacon was born in 1909 and had a bad relationship with his family (and especially his father) due to, among other things, his homosexuality. The artist lived in poverty for a period of time, and over the years developed his now-famous style. Knitting together his own inner torment and experiences with his technical skill, Bacon’s art depicts a monstrous and haunted reality, returning to many key traits that he was obsessed with, such as screams and religious motifs like the crucifixion.

In a characteristic Baconian way, the portrait eschews normal artistic representation and ‘disfigures’ its subject, Bacon’s own face, to point to an underlying psychological state. Bacon has done such permutations before with older forms, such as a portrait of the Pope done by 17th Century Spanish Artist Diego Velázquez. In his take, Bacon turned the religious figure into a grotesque screaming nightmare with purple and dark streaks running downwards. In this self-portrait, various smudges of colors run across the artist’s face until some of the discernable features are obscured. Yet all this leads up to an overall ‘lighter’ feel (at least relative to his other works) because the colors involved here are vibrant reds, pinks, blues, and whites rather than his characteristic black horrific tones. The result is less distraught and poignantly calmer; it is worth noting that this self-portrait dates from before the suicide of George Dyer.

“‘Two Studies for a Self-Portrait’ goes straight in at number one of all the paintings I’ve handled in my career. Discovering a work such as this is like finding gold dust. To my mind, the painting is worthy of a place alongside the very finest self-portraits of Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Picasso. It’s certainly among the greatest self-portraits ever offered at auction,” said Oliver Barker, Senior International Specialist in Contemporary Art. Indeed, the rare work has only been exhibited to the public two times. The first time was in 1971 in Paris, and later, 1993 in London. It was also chosen as the cover of Milan Kundera and France Borel’s book “Francis Bacon: Portraits and Self-Portraits”.

Tate Liverpool and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles will both be hosting Francis Bacon exhibitions in 2016. “Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné” edited by Martin Harrison will also be released this year. It is expected to feature around 100 works by Bacon that have never been seen before.

Beatles Breakthrough Demo Sold to UK Collector

A bona fide piece of pop culture history – the demo vinyl record that persuaded late music producer George Martin to sign up The Beatles – was sold Tuesday to an unnamed British collector.

The record sold for £77,500 (98,000 euros, $110,000), a spokeswoman for the Omega Auctions, based in Warrington in northern England, told AFP. No word yet on whether this amount is in itself any kind of record.

Having noted that, the price tag was well above the £10,000 initial estimate, showing the object’s “historical importance”, the spokeswoman said, adding that bids had come in also from China and the United States.

The ten-inch 78 RPM acetate record featuring the single ‘Hello Little Girl’ on one side and ‘Till There Was You’ on the other was pressed at the historic HMV record store on Oxford Street in London.

It was pressed by the group’s manager Brian Epstein to present to Martin at record label EMI – a meeting that led to a breakthrough for the Beatles.

Ian Shirley, from the Rare Records Price Guide, said earlier the record was a “Holy Grail” for collectors.

The record was previously owned by Les Maguire from the band Gerry and the Pacemakers. Maguire said he was given it by Epstein, who also managed his band, in 1963 and had kept it in his loft until now.