Bidding for Time

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Even in this buoyant art market, discriminating buyers sometimes snub pictures carrying historical baggage. In this instance, the world-class Picasso had previously been sold at auction for a handsome $12.1 million at Christie's New York in 1995, apparently too recently for this market to endorse.  

The following week at Christie's New York's edgy contemporary art sale, a larger-than-life porcelain sculpture by Jeff Koons of the Pink Panther cartoon character roared to a record $1.8 million, dwarfing the artist's previous mark of $409,500 and more than doubling the piece's pre-sale high estimate. It probably helped that the adorable creature was embracing a busty blonde temptress, but the sculpture's rarity--"only" three other versions of the cast exist--was the primary reason that the market went absolutely wild. Rarity is a big plus at this stratospheric level. Kent Logan, the San Francisco-based investment magnate and contemporary art collector, was the lucky seller.  

Quality and freshness to the market were winning traits on December 14 at Christie's Beverly Hills in a sale of twentieth-century and contemporary art when Richard Serra's unique steel sculpture, Untitled (Isosceles Triangle), raced to $277,500 from an estimate of $70,000 to $90,000. The brawny 8-foot-by-8-foot abstraction was executed by the acclaimed sculptor in 1975 and acquired by the late consignor in 1978. The 20-plus years off the market helped create the atmosphere for a stunning result.  

For tighter budgets, Andy Warhol's Details of Renaissance Paintings: Sandro Botticelli, Birth of Venus, 1482, a portfolio of four signed and numbered screen prints from 1984 that interpret the storied beauty, sold for $32,200 (est. $15,000-$20,000) at Christie's Beverly Hills on December 13.    

AUCTION PREVIEWS   Back-to-back evening sales of entertainment memorabilia and vintage Hollywood film posters fittingly showcase Butterfield & Butterfield's March 13 and 14 auctions in Los Angeles.  

For the tradition-minded, a signed photograph of smoky screen legend Humphrey Bogart, elegantly suited and clutching a cigarette (est. $1,500-$2,500), competes alongside a sepia-toned, signed photo of silent screen heartthrob Rudolph Valentino, outfitted in a striped turban for his title role as a desert chieftain in the 1921 film, The Sheik (est. $2,000-$3,000). Despite the period look of the pose, Valentino is sporting a circa 1920 wristwatch.  

On the edgy side, a decidedly amateurish group of unpublished photographs by the late rock icon Jim Morrison, taken during his student days at UCLA, will tempt die-hard fans (est. $1,500-$2,500).  

The sales preview at Butterfield's Sunset Boulevard showroom from March 10 to 12 and the partially illustrated catalogueis available for viewing on-line at Or contact Michael Schwartz, Butterfield's entertainment memorabilia specialist, at (323) 850-7500.   --JT    


AT ANTIQUORUM, DECEMBER 1, 1999 Rolex Cosmograph Daytona (the so-called Paul Newman model), 18K yellow gold with round-button chronograph, registers and tachometer, circa 1970s, $29,900 (est. $25,000-$30,000)   Cartier Santos Chronoreflex with 18K pink gold Cartier deployant clasp, $2,300 (est. $2,000-$2,500)   International Watch Co. Schaffhausen Grande Complication, minute repeating, platinum case with 44 hours autonomy, perpetual calendar and moon phases, 1990, $57,500 (est. $38,000-$42,000)    

AT SOTHEBY'S NEW YORK, OCTOBER 26, 1999 Rolex Oyster Perpetual, 18K gold case, self-winding, calendar wristwatch with moon phases, circa 1945, $82,250 (est. $40,000-$50,000)   Patek Philippe pink-gold perpetual calendar chronograph with date, moon phases and register, circa 1997, $41,400 (est. $30,000-$35,000)   Audemars Piguet platinum rectangular minute repeating, jump hour, circa 1992, $37,950 (est. $35,000-$40,000)    

AT CHRISTIE'S NEW YORK, OCTOBER 26, 1999 Patek Philippe 18K pink-gold perpetual calendar, split-second chronograph with moon phases, 28 jewels, recent, $74,000 (est. $80,000-$100,000)   Audemars Piguet limited-edition (10 pieces), platinum cushion-shaped minute repeating wristwatch with black dial, circa 1998, $40,250 (est. $35,000-$40,000)   Rolex 18K two-color gold rectangular wristwatch with a stainless steel and pink-gold Rolex bracelet and clasp, circa 1938 $16,100 (est. $13,500-$14,500)

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