A portrait of Conrad Black was sold for $240,000 (£116,000) at Christie’s in New York yesterday to help pay off the former media baron’s debts.
A Los Angeles art dealer, Michael Kohn, bought the portrait, one of four which Andy Warhol made in 1981, when Black was 37.
'Portrait of Conrad Black', measuring 40 inches square, was part of a sale by the world’s largest auction house that has confounded fears of a collapse in the contemporary art market as the credit crunch in the US has hit the spending power of even the very rich.
In the first session, on Tuesday night, a Warhol portrait of Elizabeth Taylor, owned by the actor Hugh Grant, went for $23.6m after Christie’s had predicted a sale price of at least $25m.
Last week, shares in Sotheby’s dropped by more than a third in value after no bids were made for a Vincent van Gogh landscape, Wheat Fields, valued by Sotheby’s at $35m.
The Conrad Black painting had been valued at up to $200,000.
Warhol produced images of celebrities from Black to boxer Muhammad Ali in the 1980s, using photographs to create prints, which he daubed with paint. Black’s receiver will reportedly use the proceeds to help pay creditors of his former Toronto company Ravelston Corp.
Black was convicted of mail fraud and obstruction of justice by a US District Court jury in July. He is to be sentenced on Nov. 30.
Ravelston’s Canadian court-appointed receiver on March 5 pleaded guilty to fraud on the company’s behalf and agreed to pay a $7 million fine.
Warhol died in 1987.
A Francis Bacon canvas, called 'Second Version of Study for Bullfight No. 1', far exceeded its $35 million-plus pre-sale estimate, while Jeff Koons' stainless steel sculpture, 'Hanging Heart (Magenta/Gold), soared to $23,561,000, including commission, obliterating the artist's $11.8 million record set one day earlier.
The Bacon was the highest-priced work in two weeks of sales at both Sotheby's and Christie's.
A Bacon self-portrait from 1969 also fetched $33 million, or more than twice its estimate of $15 million-plus.
While prices have risen astronomically in the past year or two, Sotheby's $316 million total exceeded even its most optimistic forecast of $299 million for the 71 lots on offer.
Only six works went unsold.
Text and image by Telegraph Media Group Limited 2007