October 14, 2011 / 1:36 PM / 8 years ago

Sotheby's auctions hits target thanks to Italian art

LONDON (Reuters) - Sotheby’s sold 39.5 million pounds worth of art at its evening auctions on Thursday, just hitting its target thanks to a strong Italian section that overshadowed a less impressive contemporary sale.

A Sotheby's employee poses for a photograph with "Boy's Head" by Lucian Freud from 1952 at Sotheby's in London, October 7, 2011. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

Although the results were mixed, with some star lots unsold, the auctioneer is likely to take comfort from a solid performance at a time when global economic turmoil threatens to put buyers off expensive art.

The comparative total in 2010 was 34 million pounds ($53.6 million). Pre-sale estimates ranged from 35-48.3 million pounds ($55.2-$76.2 million), but when the buyer’s premium is stripped out Thursday’s results hit the lower end of expectations.

Sotheby’s is the first of the top two auction houses to hold a major sale during this week’s Frieze Art Fair when collectors from around the world descend on London for a whirlwind of viewings, auctions and parties.

Christie’s follows on Friday.

Sotheby’s Italian 20th century art sale fetched 21.6 million pounds ($34 million), comfortably within expectations and the highest total for an auction in this category.

It included an auction record for Alberto Burri whose “Combustione legno” sold for 3.2 million pounds ($5 million), triple what was expected.

The second highest Italian lot on the night was Marino Marini’s bronze sculpture “Cavaliere” which fetched 2.6 million pounds ($4.1 million), well over double its pre-sale estimate. Of 58 lots on offer, 12 went unsold.

At the contemporary art auction, Lucian Freud’s “Boy’s Head” was the top lot as predicted raising 3.2 million pounds ($5 million), towards the lower end of estimates.

Of the 47 lots on offer, 11 failed to find a buyer, most notably Peter Doig’s snowscape “Bellevarde” which had been valued at 1.5-2.0 million pounds ($2.4-$3.2 million).

(1 pound = $1.576)

Editing by Mike Collett-White

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