Friday - 28 November 2014

Lehman Brothers catch the last boat

11 October 2010Written by ATG Reporter

WHILE the sale of artworks and ephemera formerly owned by the Lehman Brothers bank had a strange attraction for souvenir hunters and contemporary art dealers, it was, perhaps more surprisingly, also of interest for enthusiasts of marine art.

The 308-lot auction at Christie's South Kensington on September 29 offered a mixture of contemporary and modern British art, as well as books and other objects kept in the bankrupt firm's Canary Wharf offices.

But one or two interesting shipping pictures drew some of the best bidding at the sale. These included the record £55,000 hammer bid for Théophile Poilpot's (1848-1915) L'embarquement de La Normandie au Havre from 1898.

Purchased by the Lehman Brothers from New York dealers Hirsch & Adler, this large painting depicted one of the flagships of the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique. It launched on October 1882, built by Vickers' Shipbuilding at Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria.

Estimated at £20,000-30,000, it was bought by a private buyer at the sale.

Elsewhere, a Robert Dodd (1748-1815) oil painting of a Royal Naval warship in two positions made £20,000 against a £10,000-15,000 estimate, while two Thomas Luny (1759-1837) paintings of ships off the South Coast of England made £19,000 and £17,000 apiece.

Overall, the Lehman Brothers sale at Christie's made £1.31m hammer with only two lots unsold.

Most of the highest prices duly came in the more valuable contemporary art section. A Gabriel Orozco (b.1962) print from 1996 entitled Atomists: Jump Over went for £82,000 and was the top lot while a Lucian Freud (b.1922) etching of Bruce Bernard made £23,000.

More difficult to predict was how the 'Lehman Brothers' corporate signs would fare at the auction.

The largest was the 9ft 10in (3m) long metal plaque that used to stand outside the failed bank's London offices. Perhaps appropriately for a symbol of corporate excess, on the day it drew plenty of bidding against its £2000-3000 estimate and was knocked down at £34,000 to a telephone bidder.

The sale at Christie's followed the more select and higher-grossing 142-lot auction at Sotheby's New York of works from the Lehman Brothers/Neuberger Berman collection (Neuberger Berman was acquired by Lehman in 2003).

The sale on September 25 offered contemporary art exclusively and made a hammer total of $10.1m (£6.76m).

Also from the Lehman Brothers collection, Andreas Gursky's New York Stock Exchange will be offered at Christie's contemporary art evening sale in King Street on October 14 (est: £100,000 to £150,000).

By Alex Capon

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