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'Artemis' sets auction records Albright-Knox to get $25.5 million from sale of sculpture

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery's sale of the prized bronze statue "Artemis and the Stag" earned $25.5 million Thursday at Sotheby's auction house in New York City, setting records as the most expensive sculpture and antiquity sold through auctions.

Final sales from Thursday's auction of 25 antiquities from the gallery's permanent collection totaled $35.8 million, bringing profits from the gallery's recent series of auctions to more than $64 million, not including Sotheby's commission.

The auction was the penultimate in a series of six in which the gallery is selling more than 200 objects from its collection to fund the purchase of modern and contemporary art.

After more than 10 minutes of bidding on Sotheby's floor, London-based dealer Giuseppe Eskenazi placed the winning bid on the Artemis statue for an anonymous European client, said Lauren Gioia, Sotheby's vice president.

Eskenazi, whose well-connected family has purchased several of the Albright-Knox objects, had expressed interest in the Artemis, praising the statue for its rarity and execution.

"The Roman bronze is absolutely exceptional, absolutely exceptional," Eskenazi said. "You walk into the Louvre or the Met or the British Museum, and you would expect to see a bronze of this quality."

Asked to speculate on who would buy such a statue, Eskenazi said: "Someone like the Getty [in Los Angeles] or a museum that hasn't got something quite of that quality. I think they'll go flat-out to acquire something like this."

Exactly which museum or collector went flat-out to acquire the statue is being kept under wraps for the time being. The Cleveland Museum of Art announced its purchase of a granite statue of the Hindu god Shiva from the Albright-Knox collection in April, about two weeks after it was sold at Sotheby's.

The Artemis statue, an approximately 2,000-year-old bronze from the late Hellenistic or Early Roman period, served for months as the focal point of controversy about the gallery's decision to sell more than 200 works of art from its permanent collection.

The statue had been unearthed from an excavation site in Rome and languished for decades in the possession of an Italian art dealer before being discovered, cleaned and quickly snatched up in 1953 by Edgar Schenck, the Albright-Knox director at the time.

In a statement issued after the sale, Louis Grachos, the current director, expressed his usual optimistic outlook for the gallery's modern and contemporary art collection.

"Today's auction is absolutely wonderful news for everyone who wants the Albright-Knox Art Gallery to remain first rate," the statement said. "Every penny of this extraordinary sale will be invested in the future growth of our collection, guaranteeing that the Albright-Knox will stay at the forefront of modern and contemporary art museums for generations to come."

Grachos, who attended the sales along with other gallery administrators, has attributed the success of the auctions to a booming art market that consistently has shattered the estimates placed on the gallery's objects since the first auction in March.

Other pieces that significantly beat their estimates Thursday were a Roman marble statue of a poet ($2 million), a Sumerian alabaster figure of a worshipper ($1.7 million) and a copper figure of a horned hero ($3.2 million). These figures include Sotheby's commission or "buyer's premium," which amounts to 20 percent of the first $500,000 and 12 percent thereafter.

The final auction of Albright-Knox works will take place today, when theAlbright-Knox will put 14 objects on the block.

Profits from today's auction are expected to be less than $2 million.

e-mail: cdabkowski@buffnews.com

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