Weekly News Roundup: February 1 to February 5

Topping art, antiques and collectibles headlines this week, we have the diary of a detestable Nazi, hopes pinned on Chinese buyers, Christie’s predicting a better year and an Americana auction filled with Mormon collectibles.

From Mirror.co.UK:
Nazi doctor Josef Mengele’s diary up for auction

He was known as the Angel of Death. Josef Mengele was one of the Auschwitz “gatekeepers.” As prisoners arrived at the infamous Nazi death camp, Mengele pulled some aside for forced labor or horrific experiments he performed in an attempt to create an Aryan race. His diary is being auctioned next week and could bring in close to $65,000.

From The Wall Street Journal:
Chinese Loom as Art-Sale Players

Sotheby’s and Christie’s are hoping wealthy Chinese buyers start snatching up Western art. Heretofore, they’ve favored Asian pieces. Upcoming sales will tell the tale.

From Bloomberg:
Christie’s Sees Art-Market Recovery After 24% Decline in Sales

In sort of related news, Christie’s is anticipating a much better year in 2010. Almost anything would be an improvement over 2009 in which sales dropped precipitously. The category hardest hit was contemporary art, which tumbled 59 percent.

From The Salt Lake Tribune:
Mormon historical documents create auction buzz

A trove of letters and documents filled with Mormon history were in an Americana collection that sold last week for a combined $8.2 million, more than $2 million above estimate. The collector was 97 when he died last year and had taken part in the Coast and Geodetic Survey in the 1930s and ’40s.

From BBC News:
Rare vase used as umbrella stand

It’s to be expected that there might be chinks and dings in a Chinese vase thought to have been owned by Florence Nightingale’s family. After all, the vase had been used as an umbrella stand. An auction-house appraiser happened across the piece stashed in an extra room. The 18th-century “masterpiece” could bring $400,000, blemishes and all.

From The New York Times:
Mona Lisa She Is Not, but Coveted Nonetheless

Better looking than Mona Lisa, the portrait of a woman was part of a legal brouhaha after an art dealer in the beginning of the 20th century pronounced it not a da Vinci. The owners, who were selling it to the Kansas City Art Institute, were not amused, especially considering the dealer had never seen it. The owners settled for $60,000.

As it turned out, later experts, who did see the “La Belle Ferronnière,” agreed it was not a Leonardo. But never mind. It sold at Sotheby’s recently for $1.5 million, a mere three times estimate.

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