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Christie's online sale fetches US$421m despite virus pandemic

Roy Lichtenstein's 1994 work, Nude with Joyous Painting, was auctioned at US$46.2 million, well above its pre-sale estimate of around US$30 million.

New York

ROY Lichtenstein's Nude with Joyous Painting was the big seller at a Christie's hybrid sale which fetched an impressive US$421 million last Friday, signalling the art market is holding firm during the coronavirus pandemic.

The event, entitled "ONE", started with an auctioneer in Hong Kong selling a series of works, before another took over in Paris, followed by London and then New York.

Christie's opted for the unique, one-day format after it was forced to rework its spring sales, a traditional highlight of auction season, because of the Covid-19 crisis.

Lichtenstein's 1994 painting sold for the highest price at US$46.2 million, well above its pre-sale estimate of around US$30 million, Several records were broken, most notably for the American abstract painter Brice Marden, whose Complements went for US$30.9 million.

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No painting crossed the US$50 million mark, but 94 per cent of the works found buyers - a high rate even in non-pandemic times.

"It showed that the market is ready for new formats of selling and for new formats of collecting art", said Alex Rotter, head of contemporary art at Christie's.

More than 20,000 art aficionados followed the four hours of sales online. Including fees and commission, the total value of items sold was $421 million. Collectors could bid online and by phone.

In Hong Kong, Paris and London, some collectors were able to attend the sale in person but the New York leg was closed to the public because of social distancing restrictions. AFP

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