Dutch collection gets off to a solid start

Record set for Bharti Kher

LONDON. The first 88 works from the Vanmoerkerke Collection of contemporary art made more than Phillips de Pury’s total guarantee for the 500-work consignment, according to Olivier Vrankenne who was in charge of the sale. The auction on 3 April made a total of £2.6m ($5.2m), just over the £1.7m-£2.5m pre-sale estimate. Eighty-eight works by 64 artists were offered: 83% of which sold by lot. Another 400 works will be sold in London and New York this summer.

Belgian collector Mark Vanmoerkerke retains 2,500 works from a collection built up over the past decade. Some of these are on display at Oud Vliegveld, his recently opened exhibition space in Ostend. The sale resulted from Mr Vanmoerkerke’s decision to concentrate on European and American art from the 1980s onwards, weeding out works that did not fit.

Mr Vrankenne says: “I think that we have introduced some very cutting-edge art to London. I set my estimates close to the original prices paid to the artists, which was a strategy that worked in encouraging new buyers.” He said London was chosen to attract Europeans, a strategy that clearly paid off.

At least six artists’ work had never been seen at auction before—including Chris Vasell (American, b1974), Natasha Struchkova (Russian, b1957) and Yoshitaka Amano (Japanese, b1952)—and 18 new artists’ records were set on the day.

One example was £198,500 ($392,020) paid for Bharti Kher’s 2007 triptych Landscape. This caused the biggest stir of the day when a phone bidder, the eventual purchaser, jumped in with an offer of £100,000 ($197,492), despite the fact that bidding still had not reached the £40,000 ($78,987) low estimate. The highest price in the sale, as anticipated, was for Albert Oehlen’s Untitled, 1992-2005, which went for £204,500 ($403,810). His current auction record is $552,000 (£279,543) for Born to be Late, set at Christie’s, New York, in February 2007.

The Vanmoerkerke sale was immediately followed by Phillips de Pury’s inaugural Kyobai (meaning “Japanese Culture”) sale of fine and applied art, design and character toys. It set a new auction record for Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, whose Panda sold for £1.4m ($2.7m).

Viv Lawes

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