June 4, 2010 / 7:14 PM / 9 years ago

Lehman plans contemporary art sale at Sotheby's

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bankrupt financial group Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc plans to sell about 450 works by contemporary artists including Robert Rauschenberg at an auction in September, according to court documents.

Lehman, which filed for bankruptcy in September 2008, has named Sotheby’s art auction house to handle the sale, which could raise $10 million to help pay back creditors.

Lehman’s collection also includes works by Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Cy Twombly, Swedish sculptor Claes Oldenburg and Maya Lin, who is best known for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.

Lehman said in court documents that none of the items had a book value higher than $300,000, but Sotheby’s estimated in a statement that some of the pieces could fetch much more. For instance, it said Damien Hirst’s We’ve Got Style (The Vessel Collection - Blue) could bring in between $800,000 and $1.2 million.

Other top sellers may include Liu Ye’s The Long Way Home, Julie Mehretu’s Untitled 1 and Mark Grotjahn’s Untitled (three-tiered perspective), each of which are expected to fetch $600,000 to $800,000.

Lehman obtained many of these pieces during the 1990s and into the first half of this decade, particularly through the 2003 acquisition of asset manager Neuberger Berman.

Lehman’s sales announcement comes at a time when demand has returned to the art market. Both Christie’s auction house and Sotheby’s experienced strong interest during their annual spring sales last month and either met or exceeded pre-sale estimates.

And each house is slated to hold its biggest London auction later this month. Sotheby’s sale of Impressionist and Modern Art on June 22 is estimated to fetch between $146 million and $211 million (101 million pounds and 148 million pounds).

The following evening, Christie’s is expected to offer works that will realize between $236 million and $334 million (164 million pounds and 231 million pounds).

The sale process for the Lehman auction, which is due to take place on September 25, 2010, must still be approved by U.S. bankruptcy court.

The case is in re: Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc et al, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York, No. 08-13555.

($1=0.6907 pound)

Reporting by Caroline Humer, editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Leslie Gevirtz

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