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Rembrandt, Miro fetch millions at Sotheby's virtual auction


LONDON — A self-portrait by Rembrandt sold for 14.5 million pounds ($18.7 million) at a Sotheby's virtual auction Tuesday — a record price for a self-portrait by the Dutch master, the auctioneer's said.

Sotheby's said that the top end of the art market was “in rude health” and that its new live-streamed auction format, introduced because of the coronavirus pandemic, brought in a total of $192.7 million Tuesday.

“Self portrait wearing a ruff and black hat," from 1632 when Rembrandt was aged 26, was sought by six bidders. It fell within the 12 to 16 million pounds estimate. The last self-portrait by Rembrandt to appear at auction was sold for 6.9 million pounds in 2003, Sotheby's added.

The painting sold Tuesday was one of only three self-portraits by the painter to remain in private hands, and “the only one ever likely to come to auction." It measures about 22 by 16 centimetres, or about 8 by 6 inches.

The sale was part of a live-streamed global auction featuring dozens of pieces of artwork spanning five centuries of art history, from Rembrandt to Picasso, and from Joan Miró to Banksy. The event saw staff from the auction house’s New York, London and Hong Kong offices furiously gesticulating and whispering into phones as bidders vied to outdo each other.

The top-selling item was Miró’s “Peinture (Femme au chapeau rouge)” (Woman in a Red Hat) from 1927, which fetched 22.3 million pounds ($28.9 million). Sotheby's said the painting, which came to auction for the first time since 1966. set the highest sale price in Europe so far this year.

The sale also includes a triptych by elusive street artist Banksy called “Mediterranean Sea View,” painted in 2017. Presented in elaborate traditional frames, it features seascapes dotted with orange life jackets and alludes to the lives lost at sea during the European immigration crisis. The paintings fetched 2.2 million pounds — almost double the top estimated price — and the proceeds are meant to raise funds for a hospital in Bethlehem.

Helena Newman, chair of Sotheby’s Europe, said the wide range of art on sale caters to “a new generation of collectors (who) show less concern with the traditional art market categories of the past.”

“With the global art world calendar having shifted, we too have seized the opportunity to do things differently,” she said.

Sotheby’s London said some two-thirds of the works on sale have never been at auction before. Of the rest, most had been off the market for two decades.

Five works sold for over $10 million. That included a bronze sculpture of a female figure by Alberto Giacometti, which fetched 10.7 million pounds ($13.8 million), doubling the estimated price.

Sylvia Hui, The Associated Press

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