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Japanese collector buys US$98m of art in two days in NY

[NEW YORK] Yusaku Maezawa, the 40-year-old founder of a Japanese fashion website, continued his art shopping spree on Wednesday, helping Sotheby's reach US$242.2 million in sales at its contemporary art auction even as the art market continues to contract.

Mr Maezawa bought two works at Sotheby's contemporary art evening sale in New York, Adrian Ghenie's "Self-Portrait as Vincent Van Gogh" for US$2.6 million, and Christopher Wool's white canvas with "Chameleon" spelled out in chunky black letters went for US$13.9 million.

The two purchases brought his two-day tally to US$98 million. At Christie's on Tuesday, he dropped US$81.4 million on five artworks, including US$57.3 million for a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting.

Mr Maezawa, the founder of online retailer Zozotown, said he's building a private museum outside of Tokyo.

Sotheby's evening sale in New York was within the target range of US$201.4 million to US$257.5 million. The result represented a 36 per cent decline from the similar event a year ago.

But it was an improvement over the auction house's Impressionist and modern art sale on May 9, when a third of lots went unsold. Of the 44 lots offered on Wednesday, only two failed to sell.

The auction showed that while some collectors stay on the sidelines during uncertain economic times, others jump in.

Billionaire Eli Broad was the buyer of Sam Francis's colorful abstract "Summer #1" for US$11.8 million, a record for the artist at auction. The price was slightly below its high estimate of US$12 million.

The top lot, Cy Twombly's "Untitled 1968 (New York City)," showing blue chalk-like loops on gray surface evoking a blackboard, sold for US$36.6 million against an estimate of more than US$40 million.

BLOOMBERG