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Expo pieces auctioned at bargain prices

The mobile Jura Arteplage went for a knockdown price to the Montreux Jazz Festival

(Keystone)

Bargains galore were to be had at an auction of some of the most famous pieces from Switzerland's national exhibition, Expo.02.

The floating Jura Arteplage has been snapped up for a knock-down price, but the sale of the Monolith has been put on hold after the only offer was considered too low by the owner.

A German entrepreneur, Rolf Oberle, was the only bidder for the huge, rusting monolith, one of the most talked about pieces of the Expo at Murten.

One of the few people showing an interest, he offered SFr400,000, well below the asking price of SFr2.2 million.

The owner - a construction company in canton St Gallen - along with Expo's management and the auctioneer have frozen the sale and given all interested parties until next Monday to submit new bids.

"The price is not what we expected," said Stephan Rausch, Expo project leader for Nüssli Special Events, who vetoed the sale. "It's much too low, and we won't sell the Monolith for that price."

Billed by auctioneers as the "identifying mark of Expo.02", the Monolith is described as a "swimming construction consisting of 100 concrete floats".

Status quo

What the entrepreneur will do with the floating 34 metre square cube if he gets to buy it is not yet known. Oberle said it could even stay in Switzerland.

But nobody expect to see the Monolith back on the water, as the German businessman believes it would cost far too much since only the superstructure is being sold.

Oberle said he was interested in the giant cube as a work of art, and said it could become modern wine cellar with a restaurant, or be put some other commercial use.

The Hergiswil glassworks in canton Nidwald, which had shown an interest in the Monolith, did not send a representative to the auction. The company is waiting for all necessary building permits before making a bid.

Bargain

The Jura Arteplage, a boat and the only mobile lakeside platform at the Expo, was bought for SFr160,000 by the organisers of the Montreux Jazz Festival.

Nicola di Pinto, the infrastructure director at the festival, was delighted with his bargain - the Arteplage had originally cost SFr3.6 million to build.

As there were no takers at the SFr1 million starting price, the auctioneer had to start the bidding at SFr100,000.

"It was done in quite a spontaneous way, we had fixed ourselves a limit of SFr200,000," said di Pinto, who also bought dustbins and ventilators at the sale.

He was congratulated by Jura Arteplage director, Juri Steiner, who wished him lots of pleasure with the exhibit.

Around 700 people gathered for Monday's auction in Biel with another 100 participating over the Internet.

30,000 objects

The two-day event saw around 30,000 objects - from teepee tents to a rusting monolith - go under the auctioneer's hammer.

The auction came just under a month after Expo.02 closed its doors to the public for the last time on October 20 following a five-month run.

Expo organisers had commissioned the liquidation company, Used Market, together with auctioneer house, Troostwijk, to carry out the sell-off.

Monday's sale follows on from a highly successful first day, attended by more than 2,000 people, which raised SFr150,000.

"We are very satisfied with this result," said Expo spokesman, Marcel Marti. "It's much more than we had banked on."

The most expensive item to be auctioned off on Sunday was a photocopier, which was sold for SFr1,800.

Some of the most popular and practical items to have been snapped up include telephones, computers, printers and a variety of office furniture.

Quirky

Three solar-powered boats, used to ferry Expo visitors to and from the monolith, have also been up for auction and are described as being in "excellent condition". They have so far failed to attract any interest though.

Other quirky objects featured in the auction catalogue - all with only one previous owner - include shopping trolleys, slot machines, conveyor belts, ice-cream machines and "impregnating units".

Anyone looking for a novel way of getting from A to B could have placed a bid for any one of a number of fire-fighting vehicles, fork-lift trucks and road repair vehicles.

An assortment of X-ray machines and dental equipment, meanwhile, was not likely to be of interest to the casual souvenir hunter.

Lovers of the great outdoors were much more likely to be forming an orderly queue to get their hands on no less than 5,000 sleeping bags, a variety of trees and top-of-the-range lawn mowers.

A selection of portable steel units with built-in toilets and urinals were also on offer as part of the auction.

swissinfo

Key facts

Switzerland's national exhibition, Expo.02, came to the end of its five-month run on October 20.
Around 30,000 objects went under the hammer at the two-day auction in the city of Biel.
Items on offer included tables, chairs, ice-cream makers, solar-powered boats and a giant rusty cube.

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