Art recoups a little of failed firm's money

Lehman Brothers may have blundered its way to disaster on Wall St, but at least the bank's art curators knew what they were doing.

An auction of contemporary artworks held by the failed investment firm and its former subsidiary, Neuberger Berman, brought in nearly US$12.3 million ($16.7 million) at the weekend, according to Sotheby's.

The auction house said many of the works sold for far more than what Lehman and Neuberger paid. Profits will help pay the bank's many creditors.

New York-based Lehman was the world's fourth largest investment bank on September 15, 2008, when it filed the biggest bankruptcy in US history. It had assets of US$639 billion.

More than US$830 billion in claims have been filed against Lehman, which has said many are duplicates.

Top sellers at the Manhattan auction included an ink and acrylic work by the Ethiopian artist Julie Mehretu called Untitled 1, which fetched a little over US$1 million, and Liu Ye's oil painting, The Long Way Home, which sold for US$962,500.

Art in the collection once hung in Lehman's Manhattan headquarters, but the works weren't acquired simply to beautify the offices of executives and impress clients.

Lehman and Neuberger Berman both bought art as an investment.

Neuberger's curators especially had a reputation for buying carefully from up-and-coming artists. The firm's co-founder, Roy Neuberger, established the Neuberger Museum of Art on the campus of the State University of New York in Purchase.

Several of the items in the auction brought record prices for works by their artists.

Invisible Man (Two Views), by Glenn Ligon, sold for US$434,500, more than double what Sotheby's experts had predicted.

More Lehman art will be sold at Christie's International in London on September 29 and at Freeman's in Philadelphia on November 7.

- AP, BLOOMBERG

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