By Scott Reyburn
(Bloomberg News) A unique 1945 Joan Miro wood sculpture, "Oiseau Lunaire," priced at $5 million, was confirmed sold today at the opening of the world's largest art-and-antiques fair.
The Miro had been put on reserve at the booth of the Montreal-based gallery Landau Fine Art Inc. during yesterday's VIP preview of Tefaf, the European Fine Art Fair, in Maastricht, the Netherlands.
Francis Bacon's ghostly 1949 painting, "Head"-thought to be a portrait of the writer Somerset Maugham-also attracted a reserve yesterday, priced at $4.8 million by London-based dealer Dickinson.
The galleries were among 260 offering artworks with a total value of more than 1 billion euros ($1.4 billion) at the fair.
Collectors were holding back from buying at the preview because of concern that political unrest and natural disasters would affect investments, dealers said.
"What's happening in the Middle East and Japan has affected confidence," Steven Kettle, executive director at London-based Stonehage Investment Partners LLP, a multifamily office of wealth managers, said in an interview. "The clever big money is very cautious at the moment."
Two abstracts by the New York painter Christopher Wool, priced at a combined $2.35 million, were among the few big- ticket sales at the start last night.
Wool's 1999 enamel-on-linen "Night of the Cookers I" was priced at $1.5 million on the booth of the New York-based dealer Van de Weghe Fine Art. The artist's 2004 "Untitled (P447)" was valued at $850,000 by the Brussels- and Paris- based dealers Odermatt-Vedovi. Both were bought by different Northern European collectors.
A total of 10,080 visitors attended yesterday's preview, a 3.4 decline from last year, said Tefaf. Chicago-based contemporary-art collector Stefan Edlis, browsing the fair for the first time, was among a dwindled contingent of Americans, and Sheikh Saud al Thani of Qatar was one of the few Middle Eastern visitors spotted.