Tag Archives: auction

Indian Art Sets Record Price at Christie’s Auction

Indian abstract artist Vasudeo S.Gaitonde is the new record holder at auction. The late artist’s oil painting sold for 293 million rupees (US$4.4 million) at a Christie’s auction in Mumbai on December 15.

Gaitonde’s untitled painting from 1995 broke the previous record of US$4.01 million paid for a Francis Newton Souza work at a sale in New York earlier this year, the London-based auction house said.

The Gaitonde canvas was purchased by an anonymous “international collector”, Christie’s said following the auction at the luxury Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in the western Indian city.

“It achieved a world record for any Indian work of art sold at auction,” Christie’s international head of world art William Robinson said of the piece by Gaitonde, who is considered one of India’s greatest abstract painters of all time.

Gaitonde, who died in 2001, had previously set the record for the most expensive Indian artwork when his untitled piece from 1979 sold for 237 million rupees at Christie’s first sale in India in 2013. It held the record for two years before the sale of Goan artist Souza’s artwork in September.

Tuesday’s auction was Christie’s third sale in India as the auction house looks to tap into the Asian giant’s increasingly affluent middle class.

Robinson said the total value of the sale, which included 100 lots, was 980 million rupees. “It is the highest total that Christie’s has ever achieved in India and that beats our previous record for the highest sale ever in India,” he told reporters.

Land Rover Send-Off Auction Draws Near

Ahead of its auction on December 16, original Land Rover project engineer Arthur Goddard, has given the special 2 millionth edition of the iconic Defender his personal seal of approval. This sale by auction house Bonham’s comes in advance of the Defender line’s upcoming retirement in February. Since this is very momentous, it is expected that the Defender will sell for a record price, especially since all proceeds from the sale will be going to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Society (IFRC) and Born Free foundation.

Goddard, now 94 and based in Australia, flew back to the UK and to the Solihul, Birmingham factory where he led the development of the off-roader and where all subsequent Land Rovers are still to this day constructed.

“We all thought we were doing something special here. It was all about function over form as we had the farmer and the agricultural community in mind,” said Goddard. Happily, the potential of the Defender was recognized almost immediately by the public.

One of the team involved in the vehicle’s launch as well as its production, Goddard was tasked with driving the first Land Rover to its public debut at the Amsterdam motor show in 1948 and remembers that the Belgian army saw the car’s potential right away and wanted to buy up the entire first year’s production.

“I thought to myself, we’ve got an oil well here! With the power take-off at the rear there had never been a vehicle like it in existence so it drew a lot of interest from people who needed a vehicle that wasn’t just a new form of tractor, but could simply and easily take you wherever you needed to travel,” he remembers.

The car soon exceeded all expectations as a load lugger and vehicle capable of handling even the toughest and most challenging terrain. However, even Goddard was taken aback when the car became a fashion icon. “We were surprised when people started using it to take the children to school and do the weekly shop!”

Yet, even after 67 years in production and 2 million examples built, many elements of the Land Rover, from pieces to processes, are still identical to those found on the original that debuted in Amsterdam.

Robots and machines help to take some of the strain – holding doors and panels in place for workers to fit –  and paint finishes other than those shades of green that were surplus to the war effort are now available. Nevertheless, the Defender features more hand-built and hand-fitted components than any other mass-produced car currently on sale. That means that no two are exactly the same. It’s also the only car on sale that needs three keys – one for the ignition, one for the doors, and one for the fuel cap.

Yet despite its many idiosyncrasies, Land Rover 2 Million, a special model constructed with the help of 33 brand ambassadors and which is finished in a unique two-tone silver paint and boasts a full leather interior, could sell for supercar money, when it falls under the hammer at Bonhams in London on December 16. The public can view the auction model at the Bonhams showroom in London today and tomorrow, ahead of the sale proper. For the sake of motoring history, we hope this Defender will remain available for public viewing, with the help of a generous patron.

Star Wars Memorabilia Fetches Above $500,000

We wonder if Stephen Colbert picked up anything from this Star Wars-themed Sotheby’s sale that netted more than US500,000. Other Star Wars super fans certainly snapped up some of the space film saga’s rarest merchandise on the planet December 11, Sotheby’s announced in New York.

More than 600 items found new homes in the sale organized by Sotheby’s and eBay — just days before the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh movie in arguably the world’s biggest movie franchise.

The space epics have grossed billions of dollars at the box office worldwide since the first film came out in 1977 and spawned a pop culture phenomenon, drawing legions of hardcore fans.

All items in the auction came from the private collection of Japanese designer and creative entrepreneur Nigo, as we noted in our previous story on this pop culture event. Like many of his generation, he started collecting toys and figures decades ago at just six years old. Unlike the rest of us, he apparently managed to keep his in good shape!

The online auction netted combined sales of $502,202, Sotheby’s said.

The most expensive lot was a pristine, unopened packet of seven action figures from The Empire Strikes Back which fetched $32,500 — three times the estimate.

Two complete sets of “Power of the Force” coins, which were available only by special request from the manufacturer Kenner, sold for $27,500.

A Luke Skywalker doll, which hit the market in 1978 as a children’s toy, sold for $25,000, above its upper estimate of $18,000. Also never removed from the packaging, it is one of only 20 confirmed examples of the doll, Sotheby’s said.

The figurine, with a rare two-piece telescoping lightsaber, was quickly withdrawn from the market “due to the propensity for the lightsaber to snap off,” Sotheby’s said. There was also a strong market in helmets. A replica of a Star Wars: A New Hope Stormtrooper from 2007 fetched $8,125, the auction house said.

Sotheby’s consultant James Gallo says the results demonstrated the quality of Nigo’s collection and the enduring appeal of the Star Wars universe.

“We set a number of benchmark prices today, reflecting the strength of this market,” he said.

Sotheby’s, set up in 18th century London and best known for selling fine art masterpieces, called in Gallo to value the collection, which he spent a week and a half sorting through.

From the United States to Russia to China, the franchise has a fan base spanning generations. The films’ psychology has even found its way onto university syllabuses.

“It’s merchandised more than most,” the Pennsylvania-based Gallo, who owns store Toy and Comics Heaven, told AFP last week. “There isn’t much that can compare.”

He said that Star Wars collectors would proudly display their hard-won memorabilia like anything else — and certainly would not snap open the packets and play with the dolls.

“It’s up to each individual how they enjoy the items they have. It’s just like anything else, whether it be fine art or sports collectibles,” Gallo said.

Saint Laurent’s Ex Sells Prized Library

Book sales rarely ever make it onto luxury news feeds so this story is a pleasant departure. Six years after selling off his art collection in a record-breaking “sale of the century”, the French businessman and philanthropist Pierre Berge is now putting his renowned library under the hammer.

The lover and business partner of the late designer Yves Saint Laurent told AFP he is putting almost his entire collection up for auction, one of the most valuable in private hands. In fact, we’ve been waiting for this since we first picked up the story last year.

The sale of the couple’s art collection netted 342 million euros (US$361 million) in 2009, a year after the designer’s death from a brain tumor, then the highest figure ever for the sale of a private collection.

In the first of six sales which could raise a total of 40 million euros (US$42 million) for the charitable foundation he founded with Saint Laurent, 180 historic manuscripts and rare first editions including Saint Augustine’s Confessions printed in Strasbourg in 1470, and the original 1580 edition of the philosopher Montaigne’s Essays will be auctioned at Sotheby’s in Paris December 11.

But the most valuable item in the first sale, the original manuscript of Andre Breton’s surrealist masterpiece Nadja — worth an estimated 3.5 million euros — has already been snapped up by France’s national library.

Berge said that when he bought the book in London “I felt that I had got hold of a fragment of the True Cross”.

“But you have to know how to get rid of things,” Berge, 85, told AFP in his library on Paris’ Left Bank, saying he had been planning the clear-out for years and had even stipulated it in his will.

Escaped the Censor

Among the other literary treasures in the first sale is a first edition of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary dedicated to “the master” Victor Hugo, one of William Burrough’s scrapbooks and the only pages of a lost erotic work by the notorious Marquis de Sade, “The Days of Florbelle”, to have escaped the censor’s flames.

The young Berge, who was born on the Ile d’Oleron off western France, began collecting books at 18 after arriving in Paris and getting a job in an antiquarian bookshop.

He later befriended members of the city’s literati, including Breton and Jean Cocteau, one of whose books dedicated to him he is holding back from sale.

Another by Jean Giono, who was something of a father figure to him, and who is best known outside France for the film of his novel The Horsemen on the Roof, has also been withdrawn.

Berge said that he intended to “replace all the books in the library” with identical cheaper copies. “A lot will probably be more fun to read in paperback.”

“I came to love these books through reading, the collector part only came later,” he said.

Asked if he was worried about fears of falling auction prices, Berge said, “There is never a good time to sell. They said in 2009 (in the middle of the financial crisis) that it wasn’t a good time to sell…” his art collection, but it broke records.

Although known as a formidable deal-maker, Berge has been a lifelong supporter of left-wing causes and an advocate of gay rights.

He founded the AIDS charity Sidaction and the French gay magazine Tetu, with the vast proceeds of the sale of his and Saint Laurent’s art collection going to AIDS and HIV research.

He was close to former French president Francois Mitterrand and helped bankroll the failed presidential bid by Segolene Royal, the former partner of French President Francois Hollande, whose campaign for the Elysee he also supported.

Hong Kong optimistic ahead of auction season

Hong Kong auction houses are feeling upbeat about the upcoming sales season. From rare wines to Chinese paintings and expensive jewels, all the big names are gearing up for red letter days, with the mood buoyant despite China’s economic downturn.

The seasonal sales come after mega-buys by Hong Kong and Chinese bidders grabbed international headlines this month.

Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau spent a record US$48.4 million on a 12.03-carat diamond dubbed “Blue Moon” for his daughter in a Sotheby’s auction in Geneva.

That came a day after he had snapped up a rare 16.08-carat pink diamond at Christie’s for US$28.5 million, also in Geneva.

Also in November China’s Liu Yiqian, a taxi driver turned tycoon, bought Modigliani’s “Nu Couche” in New York for US$170.4 million. Further reports indicate that Liu may have been interested in the American Express points resulting from the purchase; he used AmEx to purchase the Modigliani.

“Frankly a few weeks ago I was not sure what to expect because of what happened during the summer and what happened in China with the slowdown…(but) the past two weeks were absolutely sensational,” Christie’s chairman of Asia Pacific François Curiel told AFP.

“At the moment I don’t think there is any slowdown in the appetite of Chinese collectors,” he said as the London-based auction house unveiled its Hong Kong autumn sales offerings for the first time Wednesday.

“They see works of art as a safe way of putting some money away.”

Among Christie’s highlights are ancient ceramics, works by prized Chinese painters as well as diamonds and rubies including “The Crimson Flame”, a rare 15-carat Burmese “pigeon blood” ruby.

Rival Sotheby’s, also holding a series of sales in the coming weeks, admitted top-class auctions may see fewer bidders, but the elite are still willing to spend their wealth.

“If you compare the market to where it was in 2010 and 2011 when there was a lot of hot money coming in from China… people were just throwing money around, we’re very far from that climate today,” Sotheby’s deputy chairman for Asia Nicolas Chow told AFP.

“(But) at the top level you still have very strong mainland buyers.”

“For as long as we compose a sale carefully, tidily, I’ve got a lot of confidence in the years ahead,” Chow added.

The auction house in October broke the record for Chinese imperial portraiture after selling the portrait of Chinese Emperor Qianlong’s consort by Italian artist Giuseppe Castiglione for over $17 million.

Newer auction houses on the Hong Kong scene will also be joining the fray.

Britain’s Bonhams opened an office in the city last year and will be holding watch, jewellery and Chinese art sales as well as a rare camera auction including a US spy camera disguised as a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes.

Rare coin and money specialists Stack’s Bowers, based in the US but tapping into an expanding Asia market, will offer “space collectibles” at a sale in Hong Kong.

The auction will include coins and stamps taken on board Shenzhou 1, the first test flight of China’s manned space programme, launched in 1999.

Star Wars themed auction at Sotheby’s

Auction house Sotheby’s has caused a disturbance in the Force with its auction of Stars Wars collectibles on December 11, just ahead of the release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in theaters. The somewhat intriguing auction has very particular bidding instructions, which you can see here.

Called “Return of the NIGO,” (this is indeed a reference to that NIGO, he of A Bathing Ape, for those of you who get the reference) the online auction will feature early, rare and prized collectibles, including more than 600 original action figures, replica Darth Vader helmets, autographed lightsabers, vintage film posters and even a Jabba the Hutt cookie jar. A key highlight is the highly prized Luke Skywalker figurine armed with the double-telescoping lightsaber.

Estimates range from US$100 to US$35,000. The above link also leads to the sale catalog.

Blue Moon diamond fetches record $43 m at auction

A new per-carat record price (US$3.6 million) for a diamond was established when Sotheby’s sold a vivid 12.03-carat diamond dubbed “Blue Moon” in Geneva. According to the auction house, the diamond sold for US$43.2 million Swiss francs (US$43 million, 40 million euros) November 11.

The BBC reports that the buyer is Hong Kong property tycoon Joseph Lau. Lau bought it for his seven-year-old daughter Josephine. Accordingly, he has renamed the stone “Blue Moon of Josephine,” marking only the latest diamond acquisition by Lau for his child. Lau is infamous for his 2014 bribery and money laundering conviction in Macau; he has avoided his five-year prison sentence by staying clear of Macau, which has no extradition treaty with Hong Kong.

Returning to the blue diamond, the price Lau paid was “the highest per carat” ever for this type of precious stone, said David Bennett, head of Sotheby’s international jewelry division. The diamond, described as flawless by experts, had an estimated sale price between US$35-55 million.

Most Expensive Watch in the World: Patek Philippe 5016

It is ironic that the world’s most expensive wristwatch (US$7.3 million) is now a stainless steel one-off model. The unique Patek Philippe 5016 high complication wristwatch fetched the record price when it went under the hammer in Geneva November 7, with the proceeds going to charity, according to the organizers of the Only Watch auction.

The watch, which had been listed with an asking price of only CHF700,000-900,000, had sold for CHF7.3 million Swiss francs (US$7.3 million, 6.7 million euros) after nine minutes of intense bidding by two anonymous telephone bidders, the Phillips auction house said.

That is “the highest price ever paid for a wristwatch at auction,” it said in a statement, adding that once the hammer fell the sale had been greeted by a standing ovation in the room at the luxury La Reserve Hotel in Geneva.

The Patek Philippe piece, with tourbillon, minute repeater and perpetual calendar with moon-phase display, was one of 44 unique timepieces created for the “Only Watch” auction by luxury watchmakers and jewellers, including Blancpain, Harry Winston, Piaget and Chanel. Connoiseurs will appreciate that ref. 5016 does not show the tourbillon dial-side and that the blue enamel dial actually features gold applique Breguet numerals.

In related news, the original photo for this story, compiled by the AFP, included an image of quite the wrong watch! By the looks of it, it appears to be a vintage Reference 5270 from Patek Philippe. Having in-house watch specialists is very handy!

A pink gold Patek Philippe Swiss bracelet-watch is displayed during a Sotheby's auction preview on November 12, 2008 in Geneva. The very rare pink gold perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch with moon-phases expects to reach 860,820 to 1.291,230 Euros (USD 1.080,000 to 1.620,000) at a watches auction in Geneva on next November 16. AFP PHOTO/ FABRICE COFFRINI

AFP PHOTO/ FABRICE COFFRINI

Returning to Only Watch, in total, this year’s activities raked in US$11.2 million (10.3 million euros), Phillips said.

All the proceeds of the charity auction go towards research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a tragic muscle-wasting disease that occurs in roughly one in 3,500 males.

“This fantastic result will allow us to strengthen our efforts in targeting a cure for this severe disease,” said Luc Pettavino, head of the Monaco-based AMM association dedicated to finding a cure for the disease and founder of the “Only Watch” auction.

The auction is held every two years under the patronage of Prince Albert II of Monaco.

New Dawn for Rolls-Royce in America

One of the lots at the upcoming (January 2016) Naples Winter Wine Festival charity auction will be the chance to own the very first North American example of Rolls-Royce’s new luxury convertible. You can find more information on it here.

Revealed at the Frankfurt motor show in September, the Rolls-Royce Dawn is one of the most remarkable and certainly the most stunning car to roll out of the Goodwood, England facility since BMW became the brand’s custodian in 2003.

In the words of company CEO Torsten Mueller-Ӧtvӧs: “It promises a striking, seductive encounter like no other Rolls-Royce to date, and begins a new age of open-top, super-luxury motoring.”

And of course, being a Rolls-Royce, the lot in question promises to feature a host of bespoke elements, commissioned specifically for the event. These include an Arctic White exterior finish (as seen above) paired with a red fabric roof with similar contrasting colors used to dress the vehicle’s leather interior. It will also boast full Santos Palisander Chanadel Panelling created from hand-cutting, hand-matching and hand-finishing open pore Indian Redwood. It will adorn the dashboard fascia, door panels and deck lid.

The finishing touch will be unique tread plates that state it is the first car delivered to the continent and details of the winning bid itself.

“I couldn’t think of a more fitting way to celebrate the first new Rolls-Royce Dawn for North America than through this auction,” said Müller-Ӧtvӧs. “The NWWF epitomizes the social life of our owners. We are proud to make the introduction at this event and help benefit children in need.”

Even with a base price of US$335,000, the new car is expected to be one of the most successful models in the company’s history. What makes it so special is that despite its proportions — it is roughly the same size as a BMW 7-Series yet has a much longer hood and requires space between the truck and the seats for stowing its fabric roof — it is a true four-seat convertible.

“The idea of creating a car like Dawn that can be used in comfort by only two adults on a day to day basis is anathema,” said Giles Taylor, the company’s Director of Design. “In creating Dawn we have accepted no compromise to the comfort and luxury of four adults who want to travel together in the pinnacle of style.”

The auction will be held on January 29-31, 2016 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Florida with proceeds benefiting the Naples Children & Education Foundation.

Asian collector snaps up $43m Modigliani in New York

Auction season kicked off in New York with a big win for Asian collectors. An anonymous private Asian collector splurged nearly US$43 million on an Amadeo Modigliani painting in New York, scooping the top prize in an otherwise lackluster evening sale at Sotheby’s.

The auction house sold US$377 million worth of art amassed by self-made American billionaire Alfred Taubman, a former Sotheby’s chairman who did jail time for price fixing in 2002.

The two and a half hour auction saw strong bidding from America and Europe as well, but Asia’s acquisition of the Modigliani portrait underscores increasing purchasing power in the region.

The painting, one of Modigliani’s last and dated 1919, went for US$42.81 million — far above pre-sale estimates in excess of US$25 million.

“Paulette Jourdain” depicts the maid and later lover of his art dealer, Leopold Zborowski. It came to the auction block for the first time and attracted bidding from five buyers, Sotheby’s said.

Sotheby’s identified the buyer as a private Asian collector.

The second highest lot was a 1976 landscape by Dutch-American abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning, “Untitled XXI,” which sold for US$24.89 million, scraping its lowest pre-sale estimate of US$25 million.

A Pablo Picasso portrait of his lover Dora Maar, once owned by murdered Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace, sold slightly under budget at US$20 million.

Sotheby’s had valued the oil painting, “Femme assise sur une chaise,” at US$25 to US$35 million before the November 4 auction.

Two other top lots did not sell after failing to attract minimum bids — “Femme Nue” by Edgar Degas and “Disappearance I” by American painter Jasper Johns, which were both valued at US$15-20 million.

Simon Shaw, co-head of Sotheby’s impressionist and modern art, said he was “surprised” the Degas had not sold and expected there would now be a lot of competition to snap it up.

Efficient market

“That was one of the real jewels of this collection. No question that’s the best Degas pastel that has been on the market in quite a significant time,” he told reporters.

European collectors snapped up at least five of the top 10 bids and three went to private American collectors, the auction house said.

“There’s a lot of liquidity out there but people really want the right things. And they’re quite careful about how they spend their money, so it’s quite an efficient marketplace I’d say,” Shaw said.

Among those in attendance were Italian fashion designer Valentino and Taubman’s family.

Born to Polish immigrants, Taubman made a fortune by developing and building shopping malls. He was a prominent philanthropist, as well as businessman, who built up a staggering art collection.

Wednesday’s event also set a world record price at auction for artist Frank Stella, whose “Delaware Crossing” sold for US$13.69 million.

Sotheby’s had valued the Taubman collection at US$375 million to US$527 million, before the sale. Other items are being auctioned on Thursday.

Taubman was convicted in a New York federal court of colluding with a counterpart at Christie’s in a conspiracy that US prosecutors said cheated customers out of US$100 million.

Taubman, who insisted on his innocence, died in April aged 91.

Christie’s and Sotheby’s go head to head in a week of auction sales six months after the spring season smashed a string of records and netted more than US$2.6 billion for the rival auction houses.

Fueled by rising demand from Asia and the Gulf, the spring season saw a new record for a work of art sold at auction – US$179.4 million for Picasso’s “The Women of Algiers (Version 0).”

The most expensive lots this season are a sumptuous nude by Modigliani valued at US$100 million, and a pop art masterpiece from Roy Lichtenstein estimated at US$80 million, both to go under the hammer at Christie’s.

Roger Moore Bond Rolex to be auctioned in Geneva

A vintage Rolex Submariner that had a starring role in the James Bond movie “Live and Let Die” is set to go under the hammer in Switzerland November 7.

The wristwatch was made in 1972 and shot to fame a year later when Roger Moore used its powers to escape myriad dangerous situations, to the delight of 1 billion viewers. As well as being able to cut through rope, the watch featured a hyper-intensified magnetic field with the ability to deflect bullets and even boasted a magnetic reach capable of unzipping dresses and catching spoons from coffee saucers.

The iconic watch comes signed inside the caseback “Roger Moore 007”, and is expected to fetch 150,000 – 250,000 Swiss Francs (approximately $151,000 – $252,000) when it goes up for auction on November 7 at the Geneva Watch Auction: Two.

Other covetable and collectable timepieces going on sale during the prestigious event include a distinctive Rolex Daytona “Solo Quicksilver”, which was made in 1968 and is fitted with a potentially unique dial with only the word ‘Rolex’ printed at 12 o’clock. It is expected to sell for 250,000 – 500,000 Swiss Francs (around $252,000 – $504,000). An Hermès Cosmograph Daytona watch featuring a “Paul Newman” black dial with gold registers and gilt writing and an “Hermès” stamp on its outer case back first sold on November 30, 1971 is also on the listing, and is expected to raise 300,000 – 600,000 Swiss Francs (approximately $302,000 – $605,000).

The Geneva Watch Auction Two, run by Phillips in association with Bacs & Russo, will comprise around 200 collectable watches. The event will be preceded by the Only Watch Charity Auction, which includes 44 one-of-a-kind timepieces created especially to raise profits for research on the neuromuscular disease Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). 

The Geneva Watch Auction: Two will run from November 7-8 and is estimated to realize over $14 million.

8 Top Selling Artists 2015

Often anticapitalist by nature and sometimes offering scathing critiques of socio-economic systems, contemporary art is paradoxically highly sought-after for its commercial potential. While classics famously hold their value well enough to be considered an asset class, contemporary art  – where the artist is frequently alive and still working – is required to demonstrate its potential at auction regularly. Of course, the value of most contemporary art is nebulous but therein lies the excitement.

Our friends at Art Republik give us the low-down on eight living artists whose best-selling work combined nets more than USD150 million…

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Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons was born in 1955 in York, Pennsylvania, United States of America. He received his B.F.A. from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1976. Koons is known for his exploration of contemporary consumer culture in his oeuvre. His series of works include “Equilibrium” (1985), which feature ready-made basketballs floating in distilled water in tanks made of glass and steel,  “Banality” (1988), mostly sculptures of toys and popular icons rendered in porcelain and polychromed wood, and “Made in Heaven” (1989-1991), centered around photorealist paintings and sculptures of the artist engaged in sexual intercourse in varied positions with his ex-wife Ilona Staller, an adult film star.

Koons’ “Balloon Dog” sculptures in five color versions – blue, magenta, yellow, orange and red – are probably among his most well known works. These are from the “Celebration” series, which presents giant mirror-polished stainless steel sculptures with transparent color coating.

The artist has pioneered new techniques for the making of his artworks. For the “Celebration” series, for example, he collaborated with Arnold AG, a metalwork mill in Germany to make the sculptures’ high-shine surface. In addition, he used the CAT scan, typically used in hospitals, to get an all-round imaging of subjects so that the enlarged versions could be reproduced to perfection. He also has a unique way of working. Koons’ works are made in a studio that employs more than 100 assistants who fabricate his work.

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“Balloon Dog (Orange)”

2008 was a particularly productive year for Koons, with solo exhibitions at Château de Versailles, France, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin. More recently, in 2014, “Jeff Koons: A Retrospective”, was held at the Whitney Museum of American Art. It has now traveled to the Centre Pompidou, Paris, and will be at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao later in the year.

Koons’ first million-dollar work sold was the “Pink Panther” (1988) from the “Banality” series, which transacted at Christie’s in 1999 for USD1.8 million (1988). In 2013, he became the most expensive living artist when “Balloon Dog (Orange)” sold for USD52 million at Christie’s. He holds the title to this date.

Koons lives and works in New York.

In Brief

  • Age: 60
  • Nationality: American
  • Gallery Representation: David Zwirner Gallery, Gagosian Gallery, Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Galerie Max Hetzler
  • Big Break: Koons’ “Banality” series (1988), featuring the work, “Michael Jackson and Bubbles”, exhibited at the Sonnabend Gallery in New York City in 1989.
  • Most Expensive Work Sold: “Balloon Dog (Orange)”, 1994-2000, mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating, 307.3 x 363.2 x 114.3cm. Price including buyer’s premium: USD58.4 million. Sold at Christie’s, New York, November 2013

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Zeng Fanzhi, Mask Series No. 5, 1994, oil on canvas, 180 x 150 cm. Sold at Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, October 2010.

Zeng Fanzhi

Zeng Fanzhi was born in Wuhan, China in 1964. He graduated from Hubei Academy of Fine Arts in 1991, where he specialized in oil painting.

Before moving to Beijing in 1993, he began painting the “Hospital” series, showing tableaus from the hospital, and the “Meat” series that contrast human beings with butchered meat, inspired by the hospital and the butcher’s shop he lived next to. From these first works, the characters began to be drawn with disproportionately larger hands, which persisted into his “Mask” series.

Zeng Fanzhi is probably best known for his paintings in this series of figures standing in groups or alone, wearing white masks with big smiles. This was motivated by his interactions with people in the capital of China, whom he thought hid their true identities and feelings from others and perhaps from themselves as well, in a representation of the Chinese people’s feelings of isolation in the decade after the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

An adventurous artist who has experimented with different styles, Zeng began drawing landscapes in 2004, mostly covered with bare intertwining branches, inspired by the unexpected beauty he saw in a pot of Chinese wisteria in his studio. He also painted portraits of luminaries in western culture such as Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol in 2010.

SONY DSC

“The Last Supper”, 2001, oil on canvas, 220 x 395 cm.

Zeng first set a new world auction record for Chinese contemporary art in May 2008, when his diptych Mask Series 1996 No. 6 sold for USD9.7 million at Christie’s in Hong Kong. This featured eight members of the Young Pioneers, the Communist Party’s youth movement, wearing their representative red scarves, and Zeng’s signature masks. In 2013, his painting, “The Last Supper” sold for USD23 million at Sotheby’s. He remains the most expensive living Asian artist.

In the same year, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris presented the first French retrospective of 40 paintings and sculptures from Zeng made between 1990 and 2012.

Zeng lives and works in Beijing.

In Brief

  • Age: 51
  • Nationality: Chinese
  • Gallery Representation: Gagosian Gallery, Acquavella Galleries, Gallery Hyundai, ShangArt, Hanart TZ Gallery
  • Big Break: Fresh out of art school, paintings from Zeng Fanzhi’s “Hospital” series were selected by Johnson Chang from Hanart TZ Gallery based in Hong Kong to be included in an exhibition at Hong Kong Arts Centre in 1993 titled “China’s New Art, Post-1989”. This introduced the artist to the art community, and at the same time gave Zeng tremendous encouragement to continue pursuing his career as an artist.
  • Most Expensive Work Sold: “The Last Supper”, 2001, oil on canvas, 220 x 395 cm. Price including buyer’s premium: USD23.3 million, Sotheby’s Hong Kong, October 2013

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Installation view, Takashi Murakami’s exhibition, In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow, Gagosian Gallery, New York, 10 November – January 17 2015 © 2014 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Robert McKeever.

Takashi Murakami

Takashi Murakami was born in 1962 in Tokyo, and received his BFA, MFA and PhD from the Tokyo University of the Arts, formerly the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music.

A multi-hyphenate, Murakami is involved in many aspects of the art world, and works as an artist, a gallerist, a curator and an art theorist, among others. He founded the Hiropon factory in Tokyo in 1996 for the production of his works, which later evolved into Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd., an art production and art management corporation. In addition to the production and marketing of Murakami’s art and related work, it manages and promotes emerging artists.

Murakami has organized several influential exhibitions based on the theory of a tradition of a pervasive superflat look in contemporary Japanese visual culture, typified by manga, which refer to comic books, and anime, which refer to animation, that tend towards two-dimensionality. The first exhibition, titled simply “Superflat”, was held at Parco Gallery in Tokyo and Nagoya. It subsequently traveled to MoCA gallery in the Pacific Design Centre in Los Angeles, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, in 2001. He has followed up with exhibitions such as “Coloriage” at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris in 2002 and “Little Boy: The Art of Japan’s Exploding Subcultures” at the Japan Society in New York in 2005.

A pioneer in art-fashion collaborations, Murakami began working with Louis Vuitton in 2003. He first created the “Monogram Multicolore”, which featured the “LV” monogram in 33 bright colors. Since then, he has made special prints for the luxury fashion house’s leather goods that incorporate motifs such as cherry blossoms and pandas. In 2008, the limited edition “Monogramouflage” collection, for all products from iPhone cases to luggage, featured a juxtaposition of the khaki and beige camouflage print and the Louis Vuitton monogram.

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Takashi Murakami, “Lionel Messi and a Universe of Flowers,” 2014, acrylic and platinum leaf on canvas laid down on board, 70 7/8 x 70 7/8 in

A notable recent exhibition is “Takashi in Superflat Wonderland” at the PLATEAU Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul Korea in late 2013, where some of the artist’s most iconic works were on display, including one of the artist’s “Superflat Flowers” sculptures made in 2010. Also in the exhibition was a fiberglass sculpture of “Miss Ko2”, a buxom character created by Murakami as a commentary on otaku culture, an obsession with anime and manga, and the resultant desire to have these unreal characters come to life.

Not content to rest on his laurels, Murakami is constantly innovating. In 2013, he released his first feature film, “Jellyfish Eyes”, which mixes live action with cartoon characters, with plans for a sequel.

Murakami lives and works in Tokyo.

In Brief

  • Age: 53
  • Nationality: Japanese
  • Gallery Representation: Gagosian Gallery, Blum & Poe, Galerie Perrotin, Kaikai Kiki Gallery
  • Big Break: Murakami had an international traveling retrospective, “©Murakami”, showing over 90 works by the artist that kicked off at The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles in 2008. In an interview in W Magazine in April 2013, Murakami said that this exhibition was a turning point in his career, stating that he thought the conventional view before the exhibition was that he was merely an artist influenced by Japanese subculture. The exhibition was persuasive of the strength of his artworks to have a place in art history.
  • Most Expensive Work Sold: “My Lonesome Cowboy”, 1998, oil, acrylic, fiberglass, iron, 254 x 116.8 x 91.4cm. Price including buyer’s premium: USD15.1 million, Sotheby’s, New York, May 2008

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Tracey Emin, My Bed, 1998, mattress, linens, pillows, objects, 211 x 234 cm. World auction record for the artist at Christie’s, London, July 2014. Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2014.

Tracey Emin

Tracey Emin was born in London in 1963, and studied at Maidstone College of Art and the Royal College of Art, London, where she earned her Master’s degree in 1989.

Emin’s art is inspired by her personal life. Her artworks reflect universal emotions and are both relatable and confrontational. These are created in wide range of mediums, including, painting, photography, textile, video, installation and sculpture.

In 1999, Emin was shortlisted for the Turner Prize, an annual prize awarded to a British visual artist below the age of 50. This was for her provocative work, “My Bed”, an installation of the artist’s bed complete with liquor bottles, cigarette butts, worn underwear, condoms and rumpled stained bedsheets, the scene of a post-breakup breakdown.

Among other works by Emin are her “I’ve Got It All” photograph from 2000 showing the artist seated on the floor with ample cleavage, her legs wide open, bills and coins pressed against her crotch. She is also known for her neon light installations, which she has produced since the 1990s, featuring evocative messages such as “You Forgot to Kiss My Soul” (2001) and “You Loved Me Like a Distant Star” (2012).

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Tracey Emin

Emin has exhibited extensively. In 2007, she represented Britain at the 52nd Venice Biennale. The first major retrospective exhibition of Emin’s work opened at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 2008, and traveled to Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, Spain and the Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland. In May 2011, Emin had a major survey exhibition, “Love is What You Want” at the Hayward Gallery in London.

Emin currently lives and works in London.

In Brief

  • Age 52
  • Nationality British
  • Gallery Representation Lehmann Maupin, White Cube
  • Big Break Charles Saatchi’s “Sensation” exhibition at the Royal Academy, London included Emin’s much-discussed work “Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995”, which was a tent embroidered with over 100 names of people she had slept with, including 32 lovers, and 80 people she had only slept next to.
  • Most Expensive Work Sold “My Bed”, 1998, mattress, linens, pillows, objects, 79 x 211 x 234 cm. Price including buyer’s premium: USD4.3 million, Christie’s, London, July 2014

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Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild, 1986, oil on canvas, 300.6 x 250.5 cm. World auction record for the artist at Sotheby’s, London, February 2015. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter was born in 1932 in Dresden, Germany. He studied at the Staatliche Kunstakademie, or the State Academy of Art, in Düsseldorf under the eminent German artist Karl Otto Götz from 1961 to 1964.

Richter has had an illustrious career spanning over half a century. Beginning in the 1960s, the author painted, in grey scale, renditions of blown-up blurred black-and-white photographs he had taken of still lifes, portraits and landscapes, such as “Kitchen Chair” (1965), “Helen” (1963) and possibly his most well-known work of the period, “Domplatz, Mailand” (1968), measuring nearly 3 meters by 3 meters, featuring the Cathedral Square in Milan. This iconic work appears to vibrate with Richter’s signature fuzzy blur in his photo-paintings, which had the capacity to soften or destabilize an image.

Beginning in the late 1960s, Richter created his “Colour Chart” and “Grey Paintings” series that were based on his exploration of color. “1024 Colours” was made in four unique editions, and feature neat ovoids of 1024 different colors painted in a grid at random. His “Grey Paintings” were inspired by the use of shades of the color in his photo-based paintings.

In the 1980s, Richter started to apply a squeegee across the canvas to scrape and smear freshly laid paint to create intuitive paintings that revealed hidden layers, and from the 1990s, the tool was applied both horizontally and vertically to create new possibilities in the final works.

Richter has exhibited all over the world. He had a major exhibition, “Abstract Paintings”, in 1978 at the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, which traveled to the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London. In 1988, the artist was given his first North American retrospective, jointly organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. The exhibition traveled to Washington and San Francisco. In 2002, a 40-year retrospective of Richter’s work was held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York and in 2011, a major retrospective of the artist’s works opened at the Tate Modern, London and traveled to the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, and the Centre Pompidou, Paris. Richter has also participated in multiple editions of the Venice Biennale and the Documenta in Kassel since 1972.

In 2012, Richter became the most expensive living artist after his work, “Abstraktes Bild (809-4)” (1994), sold for USD33 million in London, a title he held until 2013. Most recently, in February 2015, another “Abstraktes Bild” work, this one painted in 1986, sold for USD37 million, which made him the most expensive living artist
in Europe.

Richter has lived and worked in Cologne since 1983.

In Brief

  • Age: 83
  • Nationality: German
  • Gallery Representation: Marian Goodman Gallery, Scott White Contemporary Art
  • Big Break: In 1968, Richter was commisioned by Siemens AG to make a work to hang in their Milan offices. The result was “Domplatz, Mailand” (1968), at the time the artist’s largest figurative painting, and probably the most accomplished
  • photo-painting by the artist.
  • Most Expensive Work Sold: “Abstraktes Bild”, 1986, oil on canvas, 300.5 x 250.5cm. Price including buyer’s premium: USD46.3 million, Sotheby’s, London, February 2015

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Exhibition view of Yayoi Kusama, Ota Fine Arts, Singapore. Photography by Quek Jia Liang. Image courtesy of Ota Fine Arts

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama was born in Matsumoto City, Japan in 1929. She moved to the United States in 1957 before moving back to Japan in 1973. Kusama has had a rich and varied career as an artist for over five decades. Her works are in various mediums, including painting, sculpture, performance and installation. Among her most well known works are the “Infinity Net” paintings she began making in the late 1950s, made by adding white arcs onto a darker background on a large canvas. The “Accumulation” sculptures came after, and feature soft-sculptures she made by stitching cotton-stuffed cloth into phallic shapes to attach to furniture and clothing, as well as her trademark polka dot designs in both two- and three-dimensional works. In her time in New York in the 1960s, she was also a performance artist who staged provocative happenings, such as painting people in the nude in her trademark polka dots.

Kusama has exhibited all over the world. In 1993, she represented Japan at the Venice Biennale, for which she created an installation with a mirror room and multiple yellow pumpkin sculptures, the beginnings of similar sculptures covered in uneven black dots. In 1998, a major retrospective of her work made in New York, opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of art before traveling to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Walker Art Centre in Minneapolis, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo.

Notably, from 2011 to 2012, a touring exhibition of her works made its way to Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Tate Modern in London as well as the Whitney Museum in New York.

In 2012, Kusama collaborated with Louis Vuitton in an ambitious project that saw products such as leather goods and ready-to-wear fashion, in prints featuring Kusama’s signature polka dots – black polka dots against a yellow background, white against black and red against white, which took center stage in window displays of 460 Louis Vuitton stores in 64 countries, as well as seven special concept stores in Paris, London, and Tokyo.

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Yayoi Kusama, Shellfish, 1989, screenprint, 53.5 x 46 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Ota Fine Arts.

In the past decade, Kusama has created immersive installations of walk-in rooms that create disorienting experiences for the viewer. “Fireflies on the Water” (2002) features 150 lights and a pool of water in the center of a room, whose surfaces are all covered with mirrors that give multiple reflections. “Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away” at the David Zwirner Gallery in late 2013 played on a similar concept with 75 colored LED lights that glimmered and pulsed in a small mirrored room. Another recent installation is “The Obliteration Room”, currently at the Queensland Art Gallery, where children add colorful dot stickers to white furniture, objects and surfaces.

Kusama lives and works in Tokyo.

In Brief

  • Age: 86
  • Nationality: Japanese
  • Gallery Representation: Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro, David Zwirner Gallery
  • Big Break: Kusama has had a long and successful career, but probably became a global household name when she collaborated with Louis Vuitton in 2012, which included not only a full range of products carrying her signature polka dots, but also the window displays of the luxury fashion house’s stores in over 60 countries.
  • Most Expensive Work Sold: “White No. 28”, 1960, oil on canvas, 147.6 x 111.1cm. Price including buyer’s premium: USD7.1 million, Christie’s, New York, November 2014

Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #463, 2007/2008, chromogenic color print, 174.2 x 182.9 cm, edition of 6. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures.

Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman is an American artist born in 1954 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. She graduated from State University College, Buffalo, New York, in 1976. Her photographs have seen her take on multiple roles since her first series, “Untitled Film Stills” in the late 1970s, and continuing with “Centrefolds” (1981), in which she was photographed in an intimate setting as a vulnerable character, and “Fashion” (1983-84), exploring the objectification of women in the still image. The artist is at the center of each photograph, but in different guises, as she plays with identity through dress, transforming her image through hair, make-up, costumes, props and prosthetics.

Sherman has continued to create chameleon-like transformations in performative photographic works, such as in her humorous interpretations of old master paintings as photographs between 1989 and 1990, where she became the portraits’ subjects. Another series of similar works, this time with society portraits in 2008, saw Sherman dressed as aging socialites against moneyed backgrounds. These works poked fun at the trappings of excessive wealth and the obsession with youth and on-the-surface perfection in contemporary society.

While she is most famous for her more light-hearted self-portraits in different roles, she has created a significant number of works that are darker in nature. Beginning in the mid-1980s, her body of work expanded to include the “Fairy Tales” and Disasters” series that show grotesque scenes from which the artist is mostly absent. Other dark series include “Sex and Death” in the late 19080s, photographed using disfigured mannequins, “Pure Horror” in the mid-1990s and “Clowns” in the mid-2000s.

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Cindy Sherman, “Untitled Film Stills”, gelatin silver print, 25.4 x 20.3 cm. World auction record for the artist at Christie’s, New York, November 2014. Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2015.

Sherman has had numerous solo exhibitions at home and abroad since the 1980s. Of particular note is a survey at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2012, which showcased more than 170 photographs from the artist’s extensive body of work. The exhibition also included the debut of Sherman’s new photographic murals, which saw her image manipulated digitally against a decorative toile background.

Sherman lives and works in New York.

In Brief

  • Age: 61
  • Nationality: American
  • Gallery Representation: Metro Pictures, Galerie Sprüth Magers
  • Big Break: “Untitled Film Stills”, shown at the landmark performance and video space The Kitchen in New York in 1980, was Sherman’s breakthrough. In these black-and-white photos, the artist took on 69 stereotypical female roles in movies such as the housewife and the femme fatale.
  • Most Expensive Work Sold: “Untitled Film Stills”, 1977, gelatin silver print, 25.4 x 20.3cm.
  • Price including buyer’s premium: USD6.8 million, Christie’s, New York, November 2014

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Andreas Gursky, Rhein II, 1999, chromogenic colour print face-mounted to plexiglass, 185.4 x 363.5 cm. World auction record for the artist at Christie’s, New York, November 2011. Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2015.

Andreas Gursky

Andreas Gursky was born in Leipzig, Germany in 1955. He first studied photography at the Folkwang University of the Arts, formerly Folkwang Academy in Essen. He then attended the Staatliche Kunstakademie, or the State Academy of Art in Düsseldorf and studied under the influential German photographers Hilla and Bernd Becher from 1981 to 1987.

Gursky is known for his large-scale magnified photographs of varied scenes, which can measure up to 2 by 5 meters, reveal the conditions of contemporary times. Usually taken from an elevated vantage point, the artist’s photographic works are known for their stunning and often overwhelming clarity.

In the 1990s, Gursky began experimenting with digital manipulation through shooting the images on chromogenic prints, or c-prints using a large-format camera, then scanning the images for reworking on the computer to create his massive and precise photographs. One of the earliest works made this way was “Paris, Montparnasse” (1993), which showed an inhabited apartment building, and highlighted its uniformed structure and crowdedness in a commentary on the cookie-cutter mold of contemporary urban living. In “Rhein II”, Gursky merged photographs of different parts of the river together to exclude industrial activity, creating an imaginary serene landscape.

In 2011, this work became the most expensive photograph sold at auction.

A recurring theme in Gursky’s work is the effects of capitalism and globalization in contemporary society that put in place invisible systems. Perhaps his most recognizable images from the 1990s are of the Chicago Board of Trade from 1990, which, in contrast to “Rhein II”, shows a flurry of activity reflective of the trading floor’s organized chaos, with traders at the pit surrounded by circular rows of computers. In “99 Cent II Diptychon” (2001), which shows the interior of a 99 Cents Only store, the bright colors red, yellow and orange of rows of boxes were edited to jump out from the photograph, aided by the addition of a mirrored ceiling. The visually impressive work provided a stark reflection of an obsessive consumer culture in contemporary society.

From the mid-2000s, Gursky has worked on numerous projects in Asia, including Japan, Thailand, China and North Korea, among others. “Pyongyang”, a series of photographs of the annual Arirang Festival in North Korea in 2007 presented the heavily directed spectacle to the rest of the world. In taking the festival proceedings such as choreographed mass dances from a great distance, the resulting images look like colorful tapestries, and show the insignificance of the individual within the society.

Gursky has exhibited internationally. A 2001 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York traveled to Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Centre Pompidou, Paris, and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.

In recent years, Gursky has also exhibited small photographs atypical to the rest of his oeuvre, such as in “Werke-Works 80-08,” which opened in Kunstmuseen Krefeld in Germany in 2008, and toured to Moderna Museet, Stockholm and Vancouver Art Gallery in 2009.

Gursky lives and works in Düsseldorf.

In Brief

  • Age: 60
  • Nationality: German
  • Gallery Representation: Galerie Sprüth Magers, Mai 36 Galerie, Matthew Marks Gallery
  • Big Break: Gursky acquired worldwide fame with his major solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, in 2001.
  • Most Expensive Work Sold: “Rhein II”, 1999, chromogenic print, Plexiglass, 207 x 385.5 x 6.2cm.
  • Price including buyer’s premium: USD4.3 million, Christie’s, New York, November 2011

Story Credits

Text by Nadya Wang

Krug cellars

Century-old Krug champagne sold for $116,000

Krug cellars

A bottle of 1915 Krug champagne went under the hammer for $116,375 in New York, one of just four left in the cellars of the sparkling drink makers.

The lot sold Friday also included a tasting journey for four people who will enjoy the bottle on location in France’s northeastern Champagne region.

In 2011, a bottle of 1841 Veuve Clicquot 1841 was purchased for a record 30,000 euros ($43,000). And two 1959 Dom Perignon Rose bottles fetched $84,700 at wine auctioneers Acker Merrall & Condit in 2008.

The Veuve Clicquot bottle had spent an estimated 180 years under water in the hold of a schooner off the Finnish coast.

The Krug bottle, sold during a Sotheby’s auction, never left the House of Krug cellars, today managed by luxury conglomerate LVMH.

The anonymous buyer of the bottle will visit the House of Krug for two days with three guests.

In addition to the Private Cuvee 1915, the buyer will also taste some of the rarest and most refined drinks made there, as well as a meal prepared by Arnaud Lallement at his restaurant L’Assiette Champenoise.

Blue Moon Diamond

$55 million Blue Moon diamond headed to auction

Blue Moon Diamond

A blue diamond weighing 12.03 carats could sell for a record $55 million when it goes up for auction in November, Sotheby’s said Thursday.

The Blue Moon diamond, discovered in South Africa in January last year, will be exhibited in Hong Kong, London and New York before its likely purchase at auction in Geneva on November 11.

“The Blue Moon diamond is a simply sensational stone of perfect colour and purity,” David Bennett, who heads Sotheby’s international jewellery division, said in a statement.

He added that the immense hype which followed the stone’s discovery “has now been proven to have been totally justified.”

The Gemological Institute of America previously declared the Blue Moon to be “internally flawless”.

Categorised as a fancy vivid blue diamond, the Blue Moon is the largest cushion-shaped stone in that category to ever appear at auction.

Sotheby’s put its estimated sale price between $35-$55 million which, at the higher end, would mark a record for any diamond sale.

In November 2010, a 24.78 carats pink diamond — known as the Graff Pink — sold in Geneva for just over $46 million.

The record sale for a blue diamond so far came in November last year, when a 9.75 carats fetched $32.6 million at an auction in New York.

Blue Moon blue Diamond

Janis Joplin Porsche

Janis Joplin’s psychedelic Porsche on auction block

Janis Joplin Porsche

The famous psychedelic Porsche convertible driven by late singing legend Janis Joplin is going up for sale.

Auction house RM Sotheby’s announced Tuesday that the Porsche 356C 1600 Cabriolet would go on the block on December 10 in New York and estimated the sale would generate more than $400,000.

Joplin — who sang “Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz” in one of her best-known songs — had instead bought another German luxury car but found the 1965 Porsche’s original white finish too dull.

She had it painted red with a mural that included images of butterflies and jellyfish, as well as of Joplin and her band.

Janis Joplin Porsche auction

Joplin constantly drove the car, which was parked outside the Hollywood hotel where she died of an overdose in 1970.

The Porsche has since belonged to Joplin’s family, which lent it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland where it was on display from 1995 until this week after the family decided to sell it.

Last Titanic lunch menu

Titanic’s Last Lunch Menu Up for Auction

Last Titanic lunch menu

Three artifacts belonging to passengers who survived the 1912 sinking of the Titanic are to be sold online next month. The items are a letter written by a survivor, a menu and a ticket to the Turkish bath aboard the vessel.

The September 30 Internet sale is being held by Lion Heart Autographs, and the online auction house Invaluable.com, and coincides with the 30-year anniversary in September of the discovery of the RMS Titanic at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

Bidding will get underway at noon (1600 GMT) on September 30, with would-be buyers from around the world able to take part.

The menu shows the meal served at the last luncheon aboard the Titanic, and is expected to fetch as much as $70,000.

The letter was written by one Titanic survivor to another six months after the disaster, and makes mention of the ordeal.

Also on sale is one of only four known printed tickets from the Titanic’s weighing chair, a device used to record a person’s weight in the Titanic’s Turkish Baths’ cooling room.

Each of the items belonged to some of the very few passengers who succeeded in escaping from the disaster by boarding Life Number One, made infamous by several Titanic crew members who rowed away in it to flee, leaving more than 1,500 to perish in the icy water.

Bolin Grand Piano

ABBA’s piano up for auction in London

Bolin Grand Piano

The piano that featured on many of ABBA’s greatest hits is going under the hammer next month in London, auctioneers Sotheby’s said Thursday.

The piano is estimated to fetch between £600,000 and £800,000 ($925,000-$1.24 million) when it goes on sale on September 29.

Swedish pop foursome ABBA dominated the 1970s disco scene with their catchy, finely-crafted songs.

“The opening piano glissando from ‘Dancing Queen’ is one of the most distinctive sounds of the 1970s and we are delighted to offer the actual instrument used by the legendary ABBA in their major recordings,” said Sotheby’s expert Philip W. Errington.

“The piano itself is an instrument of real importance and with the added ABBA provenance we expect it will have worldwide appeal.”

It was built by the inventive Swedish musical instrument designer Georg Bolin for the US jazz pianist Bill Evans.

The New York Times described it in 1964 as a “space-age piano”.

It was bought by Stockholm’s Metronome Studios in 1967 and appeared on nearly all of ABBA’s recordings between 1973 and 1977.

It featured on hits including “Dancing Queen”, “Waterloo”, “SOS”, “Knowing Me, Knowing You”, “Mamma Mia”, and “Ring Ring”.

“The Bolin Grand, one of a kind and a great source of inspiration while working in the recording studio during the ABBA sessions!”, said the group’s pianist Benny Andersson.

The foursome — Andersson, Bjoern Ulvaeus, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Faeltskog — went their separate ways in 1983 and have never performed together since.

1962 Ferrari 250GT SWB Berlinetta Speciale

Unique Bertone-designed Ferrari could fetch $16 million

1962 Ferrari 250GT SWB Berlinetta Speciale

Too many classic cars that fall under the auctioneer’s hammer are described as historic and as being masterpieces in the accompanying catalogue. But in the case of this unique Ferrari there could no truer terms.

The car, a 1962 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Speciale, sports a shark-nose body built by legendary designer, Giorgetto Giugiaro under the guidance of his boss, Giuseppe “Nuccio” Bertone.

Nuccio Bertone never saw himself as a designer, but as the head of Carrozzeria Bertone — the design studio he managed until his death in 1997, he proved himself perhaps the world’s greatest design talent scout.

He unearthed and polished to perfection the abilities of Giorgetto Giugiaro and Marcello Gandini and under his wing, they developed some of the most beautiful, challenging and influential cars of the 20th century including the Lamborghini Miura and its follow-up the Countach, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint and the Lancia Stratos.

But despite the company’s success, Bertone was frustrated that the company was yet to design a Ferrari. In 1962 he took matters into his own hands, buying a 250GT SWB chassis from Ferrari and, with Giugiaro’s help, created the car that will go under the hammer at Gooding & Co’s Pebble Beach auction on August 15 and 16.

As well as the shark nose, the car’s exterior seamlessly integrated a number of racing-inspired design cues while inside, the cabin’s comfort and luxury were taken to another level. The seats were trimmed in leather, the steering wheel redesigned and the windows electrically operated.

Bertone kept the car as his personal run-around before selling it on a year later. And while it’s changed hands several times since, it has never before come up for auction.

What makes the auctioneers certain that this car is on the verge of fetching $16 million is the Giugiaro as much as the Bertone factor.

This was only the third car Giugiaro had ever had a hand in styling but he would go on to build up one of the most impressive portfolios of anyone in the automotive design world, full of everything from Alfas and Lamborghinis to the Lotus Esprit and the Volkswagen Golf, but only this one Ferrari.

As for Bertone, when the company finally got the chance to design for Ferrari, the Dino 208 GT4 was poorly received upon its debut in 1973 and Ferrari returned to Pininfarina for its replacement in 1980. A situation that Nuccio Bertone considered one of his greatest regrets in life.

Mercedes-Benz 600 limousines

Artcurial to offer the limousines of Maria Callas at auction

Mercedes-Benz 600 limousines

On Monday, July 20, auction house Artcurial is putting up for sale a collection of 11 cars from the estate of a friend of the Callas family, including two limousines that belonged to the famous opera singer herself.

Offered without reserve, these two Mercedes-Benz 600 limousines, from 1966 and 1971, are estimated at between €60,000 and €100,000.

First presented at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1963, the Mercedes 600 aimed to break into the luxury market until then dominated by Rolls-Royce and Bentley.

The idea was also to seduce the stars of show business, as was the case with Maria Callas. The Mercedes 600 was celebrated for combining power (250hp), technology (a complex 150-bar (2,176 psi)) hydraulic pressure system powered the automobile’s windows, seats, sun-roof, trunk lid and automatically closing doors) and comfort (adjustable air suspension delivered excellent ride quality and sure handling over any road surface).

The “Succession d’un ami de Maria Callas” auction will take place on Monday, July 20, at 5pm in the salon Belle époque at the Hotel Hermitage in Monaco. For more info, go to artcurial.com.

 

Spanish gold chalice

Spanish treasure from 17th century on sale in New York

Spanish gold chalice

An exquisite gold chalice, an emerald-encrusted cross and silver coins go on auction in New York next month, recovered from a Spanish ship that sank off the coast of Florida in 1622.

The extraordinary items were discovered by a US treasure hunter from the wreckage of the Nuestra Senora de Atocha, the most famous vessel in a Spanish flotilla that sank after sailing into a hurricane.

The ship, laden with New World riches and heading back to Spain, was one of nine ships that sank in the storm. She went down with 265 people on board, of whom only five survived.

After a painstaking, expensive search taking more than 15 years, Mel Fisher located the wreckage on July 20, 1985, recovering $450 million worth of treasure, including coins and precious jewelry.

To mark the 30th anniversary of the discovery, Guernsey’s says it is auctioning nearly 40 items retrieved from the Atocha and other wrecks found by Fisher, on August 5 in New York.

Among items under the hammer will be 100 rare and sought-after silver coins from the Atocha and her sister ship, the Santa Margarita.

Emerald Cross