Weekly News Roundup: June 15-June 19, 2009

Headlining art, antiques and collectibles news is a 1936 sports car designed by an eccentric billionaire, smooching in Times Square and a movie satirizing the art world.

From The Associated Press via Auction Central News:
Howard Hughes’ hot rod Lincoln hits $1 million at auction

Howard Hughes, they just don’t make ’em like him anymore. Movie producer. Setter of air-speed records. Owner of TWA. Collector of beautiful women (a short list includes Ava Gardner, Gene Tierney, Jean Peters, Katharine Hepburn). Las Vegas mogul. And all-around weird guy. The Bashful Billionaire was also a car designer. His 1936 Lincoln Boat Tail Speedster recently sold at auction for $1 million. The buyer was Bill Smith, a great Syracuse University center and not-so-great Portland Trail Blazers center. Smith said he felt that $1 million for the car was a bargain.

From Auction Central News:
Eisenstaedt photo of kissing couple on V-J Day in June 18 auction

One of the most famous smooches caught on film was being sold Thursday in Italy. The place: Times Square. The time: V-J Day, August 14, 1945. Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt was snapping away when he saw a sailor grab a nurse and plant a big, celebratory kiss on her. The 9-inch-by-7-inch silver gelatin print was expected to go for between $16,700 and $21,000.

Because of the excitement and crowd, Eisenstaedt couldn’t reach the couple to get their names. Numerous men and women have claimed to be the kissers, but because the faces can’t be seen, the photographer never was sure who they were.

British Film Takes a Shot at the Art World

You have to wonder why there aren’t more movies about the art world. All the ingredients are there for high drama or low comedy—bigger-than-life egotists, starving geniuses, upward-clawing nouveaux, old-money aristocrats, maybe a gangster or two thrown in.

A new film, “Boogie Woogie,” goes full throttle into the craziness of the art market as various characters—none very admirable—try to wrest possession of a Mondrian titled, yes, “Boogie Woogie.” (The painter’s family allowed a copy of the painting to be used in the movie.) The cast is delicious—Joanna Lumley of boozy “Absolutely Fabulous” fame, Gillian Anderson of “X-Files” fame and Christopher Lee, one time known for his horror roles, now immortalized as Saruman in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

And what makes this movie all the more intriguing is one of its advisers is Damien Hirst of bizarre-art-that-sells-for-megabucks fame.

From The New York Times:
$431,000 Paid for Envelope and Its Stamp

It was not an envelope sent to someone’s Aunt Pansy in Peoria. This was the far-traveled 1873 Ice House Cover. It sold for more than $430,000 at auction because of what was affixed to it—a rare Abraham Lincoln 90-cent stamp. Stolen sometime after 1943, the FBI finally tracked it down in 2006.

The owner of ice warehouses in India mailed the letter from New England from which it traveled to Germany, Egypt, Bombay and then by train to Calcutta.

Lennon’s Peace Placard Going Up for Bid

Oh, back to the yesteryear when John Lennon and Yoko Ono took to their bed in a Montreal hotel to stage a sleep-in protesting the Vietnam War. As long as they were at it, Lennon and others recorded the song, “Give Peace a Chance.” To personalize the Queen Elizabeth Hotel room, Lennon handwrote a sign to post on the wall. It read “l’amour et la paix,” French for love and peace. The sign is up for auction July 1 with an estimate of $70,000. Imagine what the bed would go for if it could be found.

From Bloomberg:
Billionaire Broad Says Art Market ‘Levels Out’ After Price Drop

Art sellers, breathe easy. Eli Broad says the worst is over. The deep slump in the art market has ended, the billionaire proclaimed, adding today “prices are more rational” than during the heady 500-percent run-up that proceeded the global economic downturn. Further, the pieces up for sale are of better quality. He made these statements at Art Basel.

From The Art Newspaper:
Surprise success: Art Basel dispels credit crunch blues

Speaking of Art Basel—and giving credence to Broad’s assessment—the 300 exhibitors got a pleasant surprise. Things sold. Some believe that the art extravaganza did well because good pieces were offered. It helped that dealers faced reality and lowered prices when interested buyers needed coaxing. It was also suggested that people were tired of being the crisis mode and were ready to buy, buy, buy.

The Associated Press via Auction Central News:
China plans new terracotta warrior excavation

The tomb of China’s first emperor, discovered in 1974, was well guarded by hundreds and hundreds of carved terracotta soldiers. The first two excavations of it yielded more than a thousand of the life-size statues. It’s believed the three pits around the tomb may have contained up to 8,000 soldiers, chariots, horses, acrobats. In addition to the tourist drawing power of the tomb and its museum, much money is made on reproductions sold in gift shops. Is this what Chairman Mao had it mind?

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