Lehman Art Goes for $1.35 Mil at Auction

By Sadie Bass

Nov 4, 2009 5:35pm

ABC's Whitney Lloyd reports from New York:

A contemporary art collection that once adorned the boardrooms and offices of former-finance pillar and now-bankrupt investment bank Lehman Brothers sold at auction this week for $1.35 million – doubling pre-auction estimates.

Freeman Auctioneers of Philadelphia dispensed all 238 pieces in a sale that lasted six hours as at least 2,000 bidders jostled for one of Lehman’s Depression-era sketches, landscapes or signed post-war works by David Hockney or Roy Lichtenstein. 

Lichtenstein’s blue-and-white striped Statue of Liberty print “I Love Liberty” was the top seller, raking in $49,000, smashing its estimated price of $25,000.

Robert Indiana’s “Polygons” was expected to net $6,000. The gavel finally fell at more than $23,000.

Yvonne Jacquette’s nighttime Manhattan cityscape “Midtown Composite” fetched $16,250, destroying presale estimates of $1,800.

Many former Lehman employees packed the auction hall – perhaps in search of a memento of Wall Street before the crash.

“This gives you a piece of financial history – good, bad or indifferent,” art advisor Scott Drucks told Bloomberg News.

The Lehman sale is a bright spot in an otherwise dismal start to the fall art auction season.

Christie’s sold only 70 percent of the Impressionist and modern art pieces offered last night in its New York showroom, netting $68.6 million, far short of the $97 million art experts had expected.

Not even one bid was placed on Pablo Picasso’s bright red portrait of his lover and muse “Tete de femme” – the auction’s centerpiece which had been expected to sell for as much as $10 million.

Perhaps the whiff of scandal tainting Lehman’s collection attracted otherwise skittish art buyers.

“The Lehman name (…) adds a little importance and gravitas to the works," Anne Henry, vice president of modern and contemporary art at Freeman told the Wall Street Journal.

The proceeds will be used to repay Lehman’s creditors, though they hardly a glancing blow to the $250 billion the defunct bank owes.

The remainder of Lehman’s art collection will be auctioned on Dec. 6 and Feb. 12, 2010.

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