Lehman Brothers Art Auction was a Success


Roy Lichenstein's I Love Liberty

This was the fire sale to beat all fire sales.

An eclectic batch of artworks that once adorned the corporate offices of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. sold for $1.35 million yesterday at Freeman’s Auctioneers in Philadelphia.

While the tally for the 283 lots was almost double the projected total of as much as $760,800, it represented no more than a modest dent in the $250 billion Lehman owes creditors.

The marathon six-hour sale drew fast-paced bidding and strong prices. The top lot was Roy Lichtenstein’s blue-and-white-striped Statue of Liberty print (1982) titled “I Love Liberty,” (pictured above) which sold for $49,000, nearly double the $25,000 presale high estimate.

Other pricey lots included a 1975 primary-colored set of seven Robert Indiana prints called “Polygons.” Expected to fetch no more than $6,000, the set went for $23,750. Arturo Herrera’s “Mine,” a looping blue-and-white collage, sold for $16,250 to a Venezuelan collector attending his first auction. All of the 283 lots sold, and the majority were offered without a minimum price.

“I think there was a certain amount of trophy hunting,” said Alasdair Nichol, Freeman’s vice chairman and auctioneer, after the sale, noting the presence of former Lehman employees and staffers from other financial companies. “What’s not to like? It’s nice boardroom art, presented nicely, ready to go up on the walls. People lapped it up.”

“This gives you a piece of financial history — good, bad or indifferent,” said art adviser Scott Drucks, of the New Jersey-based Forrest Scott Group, who works with corporate and bank clients including Barclays Plc, Hewlett-Packard Co. and AT&T Inc. “Prices were fair and the estimates were low.” Barclays, which purchased part of Lehman, declined to exercise an option to buy some of the art collection.

Lehman filed the biggest U.S. bankruptcy on Sept. 15, 2008. Proceeds from art sales will benefit creditors. Additional Lehman property sells on Dec. 6 and Feb. 12, 2010.

“The Lehman name has been having a greater effect than anyone expected,” said Kelly Wright, a New Hampshire-based art and antiques appraiser who consulted with the Lehman estate on the sale. Wright estimated that a quarter of the sale’s audience was affiliated with Lehman in some way.

The Lehman name also drew curious onlookers and collectors to the high-ceilinged neo-classical salesroom. The auction registered 250 bidders on the Internet alone, including 200 voyeurs who logged in via the Web just to follow the proceedings.


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