N.Y. auction of private art collection stumbles, a Picasso is casualty

NEW YORK Tue Nov 5, 2013 9:19am IST

Christie's employees Lauren Peterson (R) and Sheri Farber stand in front of ''Tete (Maquette pour la sculpture en plein air du Chicago Civic Center)'' (Model for the outdoor sculpture at the Chicago Civic Center), a model used for his public sculpture, is seen at a viewing in Chicago, Illinois, October 2, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young

Christie's employees Lauren Peterson (R) and Sheri Farber stand in front of ''Tete (Maquette pour la sculpture en plein air du Chicago Civic Center)'' (Model for the outdoor sculpture at the Chicago Civic Center), a model used for his public sculpture, is seen at a viewing in Chicago, Illinois, October 2, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The fall art auctions got off to a shaky start on Monday with Christie's' sale of a private collection which fell far short of expectations, including the failure to sell of a much-anticipated Picasso sculpture.

The sculpture, "Tete," the model for a prominent outdoor steel artwork in Chicago's Daley Plaza, had been the expected highlight, and with an estimate of $25 million to $35 million was poised to break the artist's record for a sculpture.

But the work failed to reach its reserve - the secret minimum price sellers agree to accept before an auction - when no bids beyond $19 million were forthcoming.

One after another, other top works by artists ranging from Giacometti to Kandinsky and Miro and bearing estimates around $10 million to as high as $25 million, failed to sell.

The sale of 62 works from the collection of art dealer Jan Krugier took in $92.5 million including commission, Christie's said, against a $158 million to $225 million pre-sale estimate.

Among the sale's few high points was Picasso's portrait of two of his children, "Claude et Paloma," a 1950 oil that soared to $28,165,000, or more than twice the estimate of $9 million to $12 million, to achieve the evening's top price.

Several lower-priced works also saw competitive bidding, selling for many times their estimates.

Christie's officials expressed their disappointment.

"Obviously we would have wished for a stronger evening," one more in line with the pre-sale interest shown by clients, said Conor Jordan, deputy chairman of Impressionist and modern art in New York who was in charge of the Krugier sale.

Jordan said the estimate for the Picasso sculpture "was not an issue to interested parties in the run-up to the sale. We didn't see any dissent from our clients."

Noting that "things with lower estimates performed very strongly," he added that 71 percent of the 62 works on offer were sold, which he called "a reasonable figure."

"And we were thrilled to see bidding coming from all across the globe," he said.

Asian bidding was especially strong, with the Picasso bought by an Asian client bidding via telephone.

The auctions continue on Tuesday and Wednesday, with Christie's wrapping up the Krugier sale ahead of its Impressionist and modern art auction, followed by Sotheby's sale of Impressionist and modern art.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

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