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Record prices at Zurich art auction

"Sur la plage" (1899) by Félix Valloton

(Keystone)

Paintings by Swiss masters have fetched record prices at a Christie's auction in Zurich. One oil painting, "Sur la plage" by Félix Valloton, was sold for nearly SFr3 million ($1.76 million) - more than twice the pre-auction estimate.

Another record sale was SFr705,000 for a canvas by Giovanni Giacometti entitled "Fanciulli al Sole". Two oil paintings by Ferdinand Hodler, "Femme Joyeuse" and "Le Grammont", each went for SFr2.5 million.

One of Valloton's best-known paintings, "Sur le plage" was bought by a Swiss collector, while the Giacometti was acquired by the fine arts museum in Bern. The two Hodler paintings also went to private collectors in Switzerland.

The 103 works on sale fetched a total of SFr14.5 million.

Swiss art expert Barbara Basting says the high bidding came as no surprise because of the recent boom in the market for Swiss paintings. "For years the quality of many of these works was underestimated," she told swissinfo. "It's only now that the market is recognising this."

Markus Schoeb of Christie's in Zurich said another factor was that Swiss art was relatively inexpensive: "You could buy a painting by Hodler for much less than one by [the Austrian] Gustav Klimt. The art market became aware that Swiss art was not expensive - yet."

This week more record prices are expected at another Zurich auction when other paintings by Swiss masters - including Valloton - go under the hammer on Thursday at Sotheby's.

by Richard Dawson

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