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Saturday October 13, 2007

Chinese painting sets sales record at London auction

MYT 8:30:58 PM

LONDON (AP): A painting inspired by the 1989 crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing has become the most expensive work by a Chinese contemporary artist ever sold at auction, Sotheby's auction house said. 

Yue Minjun's "Execution'' sold to a telephone bidder late Friday for 2.9 million pounds (US$5.9 million; euro4.2 million), well over its upper pre-sale estimate of 2 million pounds (US$4.1 million; euro2.9 million). The price includes a buyer's premium. 

Sotheby's described Yue's 1995 painting as "arguably the artist's most vehement, candid and politically loaded work.'' 

Recalling Francisco de Goya's "The Third of May, 1808: The Execution of the Defenders of Madrid,'' it depicts figures pointing at others in a mock-execution, in front of a red wall that suggests Beijing's Forbidden City. 

Both Sotheby's and rival Christie's are holding major sales of postwar and contemporary art this week, and art-lovers are watching closely for signs the hot art market may be cooling. 

Fine-art insurer Hiscox says the value of contemporary art sold at auction rose by 55 percent in the year to June. This week's sales have been the first big international auctions since the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis rattled financial markets and sparked belt-tightening among the financial-sector high-flyers who are among the keenest art buyers. 

Christie's sale on Sunday includes works by Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Peter Doig and Bacon, whose "Study from the Human Body, Man Turning on the Light'' is expected to fetch 7 million to 9 million pounds (US$14 million to 18 million; euro10 million to 13 million).

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