An auction of nearly 40 works by the Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti in Paris on Saturday has been hailed a success.This content was published on September 29, 2002 - 11:38
The "judiciary" sale had nearly been cancelled after a court ruled that auctioneers Christie's could not conduct the auction.
The sale was organised to help pay off debts owed by the Giacometti estate.
It was orginally planned to sell 36 lots, but the auctioneer stopped the sale after just 24 by the estate's executor, when the required amount of €6 million (SFr8.73 million) was reached.
Prices went immediately beyond the original estimations. The first lot went for €135,000 instead of the expected €35,000.
"The Cage", one of the sale's amin attractions, a 90-centimetre-high sculpture, went for €1.6 million, the double of its estimated value, to Swiss art dealer Ernest Beyeler.
Two other pieces went for €800,000.
Christie's had planned the auction, but on Wednesday a court was asked by a group of Paris auctioneers to stop the auction. They claimed that French law means that only they are authorised to hold what are termed "judiciary sales auctions".
Shortly after the court judgment, Christie's announced that it was handing over the sale to the French auctioneers and that it would go ahead at the Hotel Drouot in Paris.
The sale took place in front of 350 people, including art dealers from Britain, Italy, Belgium, the United States and Switzerland. Another 50 were bidding over the telephone.
The case began in early summer, when the executor of the estate of Giacometti's widow Annette received authorisation from a judge to hold a "judiciary" sale.
Under French law, a judiciary sale arises from a need to cover huge bills or debts, and must be conducted by French auctioneers - known as Judiciary Commissaires-Priseurs - qualified for the task.
Christie's regarded the sale as a "voluntary" one, which would have enabled them to be the auctioneers.
Even though Christie's were mandated by the Giacometti estate for the sale and carried out considerable international marketing work in advance, they took no part in the auction.
swissinfo, Richard Dawson
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