Market news: a big week in the world of art, Yazzy's at

bamarket.jpgDamien Hirst may not have bought Francis Bacon's $86 million (£44 million) triptych in New York last week, as some at first thought, but he did acquire Jeff Koons's stainless-steel sculpture Jim Beam-Box Car at Christie's for $1.9 million.

Artist Damien Hirst (left) has bought a Jeff Koons.

This may be linked to Hirst's reformed attitude to drinking. The car is filled with a fifth of bourbon, but sealed. "You can drink the bourbon," said Koons in a 1992 statement, "but if you break the seal you destroy the soul of the piece."

The three paintings by Bacon sold in New York last week totalled $119 million, making him the highest-grossing artist of the week, outstripping Andy Warhol, who came in second with $110 million for 56 works.

• Do New Yorkers have something against Banksy? At Sotheby's last week, there were cheers when the British graffiti artist's painting Sale Ends Today, estimated to fetch $600,000, failed to sell.

• A former cartoonist and graphic designer for film directors Francis Ford Coppola and Steven Spielberg had a spirited opening of his latest paintings at the Catto Gallery in north London on Sunday.

advertisementAlain Bertrand has made a series of photorealist paintings of jazz musicians and Fifties American cars. Thirteen of the paintings were swiftly sold for prices of up to £20,000 each, and several commissions were received from proud owners of vintage automobiles.

• The three Ds (death, debt and divorce) have always been important factors in the supply chain for auctions, and this week come into the spotlight when Sotheby's offers one of Edward Hicks's many versions of his American folk-art icon, The Peaceable Kingdom, with an estimate of $6 million to $8 million.

The painting belongs to beleaguered jeweller Ralph O Esmerian, who used art and jewellery as collateral to buy a jewellery business in 2005. He now reportedly owes Sotheby's $11.5 million and Christie's $7.5 million.

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Africa's "Miami" boasts Art Deco trove, Yazzy's at

According to ASMARA (Reuters) - When Italian architect Giuseppe Pettazzi inaugurated Eritrea's plane-shaped "Fiat Tagliero" service station in 1938, he stunned onlookers by pulling out a gun.

There, the story behind Africa's finest piece of Futurist architecture goes hazy.

In one version, Pettazzi stood defiantly on one of his 18-metre (59 ft) concrete "wings" -- used as decorative shades for cars entering the garage -- and threatened to kill himself should the structure collapse as wooden supports were pulled away.

In another, the excitable architect held the gun to the head of a disbelieving builder, who had hesitated to pull away the struts for fear the long slabs would tumble down.

Either way, the wings stayed up, nobody was shot, and Pettazzi's design skills were vindicated.

Seven decades on, this extraordinary piece of Italian Art Deco, which resembles a plane at takeoff, is still standing in Asmara, the central capital of this former Italian colony.

The "Fiat Tagliero", named for the car firm and the old gas station's owner, is one of 400 buildings that make the remote Eritrean capital one of the world's most fascinating centres for Art Deco and other architectural styles.

One of a tiny number of books on the subject -- "Africa's Secret Modernist City" by three Asmara-based writers -- calls Asmara "the Miami of Africa" in reference to the U.S. city's fame for Art Deco, a design in the Modernism trend known for stylish geometric shapes, bold curves and soft colours.

"The Italians felt they would be here for hundreds of years, so they built and built, and left us this remarkable legacy," said Samson Haile Theophilos, who has written about Eritrean architecture, as he purred lovingly over the Fiat building.

"But I want to stress the workers, skilled and unskilled, were all Eritrean, so we consider this architecture ours."

Asmara's Art Deco boom came during 1935-41, the last six years of Italian colonial rule of the vast Horn of Africa region then known as Abyssinia.

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Abramovich 'buys £60m paintings' , Yazzy's at

Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich bought two paintings that were sold at record-breaking auctions last week, according to reports.

Lucian Freud's Benefits Supervisor Sleeping sold for £17.2m on Tuesday, followed by Francis Bacon's Triptych, which fetched £43m just 24 hours later.

The Art Newspaper quoted sources saying the London-based Russian billionaire was the buyer of both paintings.

A spokesman for Mr Abramovich declined to comment.

He said: "We don't get into personal matters."

The life-sized Freud painting of a sleeping, naked woman, titled Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, sold for $33.6m (£17.2m) at Christie's in New York.

Christie's described the work, which shows Jobcentre supervisor Sue Tilley asleep on a sofa, as a "bold and imposing example of the stark power of Freud's realism".

It set a new world record price for a work by a living artist.

The following day, Sotheby's sold Bacon's Triptych (1976) for $86.3m (£43m) - the most ever spent on a work by the British artist - also in New York.

The three panelled picture depicts a headless human form surrounded by three vultures and flanked by two portraits of disfigured human faces.

Meanwhile, two more paintings by Freud and Bacon are expected to fetch more than £25m when they come up for auction next month.

Freud's Naked Portrait with Reflection (1980) shows a nude model spread out on a tattered sofa and is estimated to fetch up to £15m at Christie's.

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US pop art giant dies aged 82, Yazzy's at

rauschenbergb372.jpgThe US pop art pioneer Robert Rauschenberg has died at the age of 82, his gallery said today.

Rauschenberg - described as a "titan" of American art by the New York Times - died on Tuesday, Jennifer Joy, of the Pace Wildenstein gallery, in New York, said. He had been ill for some time.

The artist was born in Port Arthur, Texas, in 1925, and spearheaded a style called the Combines in the 1950s.

The style incorporated aspects of painting and sculpture, and Rauschenberg eventually moved on to include objects such as a stuffed eagle or goat and street signs. He became one of the most influential artists reacting against abstract expressionism.

In the 1960s, he responded to the work of his pop art contemporaries - including Andy Warhol - by incorporating up to the minute photographed images in his works, including pictures of John F Kennedy.

Rauschenberg began silk-screen painting and embarked on a period of more collaborative projects including performance art, choreography, set design and art and technology combinations.

Among his most famous works was Bed, created after he woke up in the mood to paint but had no money for a canvas. His solution was to take the quilt off his bed and use paint, toothpaste and fingernail polish.

In 1970, he established a permanent studio on Captiva island, off Florida's Gulf coast, where he made his home.

He demonstrated the diversity of his work when he won a Grammy Award in 1984 for best album package for the Talking Heads album Speaking in Tongues.

"I'm curious," he said in 1997, in one of the few interviews he granted in his later years. "It's very rewarding. I'm still discovering things every day."

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U.S. buyers drive Christie's $350 million modern art sale, Yazzy's at

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Lucian Freud painting sold for $33.64 million at Christie's art auction on Tuesday, shattering the record for a piece by a living artist.

The British painter's 1995 portrait of a nude woman sleeping on a sofa, "Benefits Supervisor Sleeping," sold for just under its high presale estimate of $35 million.

The previous record of $23.6 million was set last November for a Jeff Koons sculpture, "Hanging Heart."

Contemporary art sold strongly, defying erratic financial markets at a $350 million auction marked by a surprising preponderance of American buying.

Records fell for seven other artists as well.

"It was stupendous," said Christie's contemporary and postwar art international co-head Amy Cappellazzo, noting it was Christie's second-best contemporary result.

The sale's total was just above the midrange of its presale estimate.

"So much for the weak dollar," Cappellazzo quipped after the auction. U.S. buyers snapped up 70 percent of the $348,263,600 worth of art sold, while Europeans bought nearly all the rest.

"We didn't expect the dominance of Americans in this sale," added contemporary art co-head Brett Gorvy. A week ago, U.S. buyers accounted for less than a third of the auction house's Impressionist and modern art total.

The solid results, in which 95 percent of the 57 lots on offer found buyers, brought palpable relief. Some auction officials had privately expressed fears the spring sales could mark the beginnings of a market downturn.


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