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05/16/2013

Paintings, jewels hit record sales. What austerity?

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Jackson Pollock's Number 19, 1948, sold for $58.4 million. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Art and jewelry sales hit record high prices today as a stack of paintings and stones sold for a total of almost $1 billion at auctions around the world.

A contemporary art sale at Christie’s in New York sold $495 million worth of paintings, including Jackson Pollock's "Number 19, 1948," which sold for $58.4 million. Christie’s said in a statement the sales showed “a new era in the art market." Which is another way of saying there are a lot of very rich people out there who can pay a lot of money for some art.

But in recent years art sales records keep breaking. 

The second most expensive painting ever sold was in 2006. Again, it was a Pollock. "No. 5, 1948" sold for $140m. Hollywood magnate David Geffen reportedly sold it to Mexican financier David Martinez although Martinez denied it.   

The third most pricey was Willem de Kooning’s "Woman III" which was sold in November 2006 to billionaire (he would have to be) Steven A. Cohen for $137.5 million. Geffen owned that one, too.

But the Qatari royal family blew everyone out of the water when they purchased Paul Cezanne’s "The Card Players" for $250 million in 2011. It is the highest ever paid for a work of art.

Or maybe diamonds are more your thing?

Across the pond in Geneva, Christie’s held a jewels sale, where a pile of sapphires, pearls and diamonds sold for more than a million dollars each.  Jeweler Harry Winston bought a 101.7 carat, pear-shaped diamond for $26 million. The company renamed the gorgeous stone ‘Winston’s Legacy.’

“A stone of this calibre and rarity is the perfect continuation of Mr. Winston’s legacy as the King of Diamonds,” the company’s CEO Nayla Hayek burbled in a statement. 

All this begs only one question, really.

What austerity? 

Hamida Ghafour is a foreign affairs reporter at the Star. She has lived and worked in the Middle East and Asia for more than 10 years and is the author of a book on Afghanistan. Follow her on Twitter @HamidaGhafour 

Comments

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Well, I would guess it's the austerity hitting the 99% of people who actually work for a living, not the folks who can afford to spend several times more than most people make in their entire life on a single piece of art.

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