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Enron Art Collection Sold for $1.74 Million

NEW YORK.- The art collection of Enron Corporation, the bankrupt Houston-based energy trader, generated $1.74 million in auctions at Phillips , de Pury & Luxembourg , according to a story in the Bloomberg News. The total of 48 contemporary artworks, including pieces by Donald Judd, Alex Katz, Vik Muniz and Andy Warhol, sold at auctions from May through December in 2003. The highest price achieved was $405,000, paid for Claes Oldenburg’s Soft Light Switches (Enron had bought the same work at Phillips in 2001 for $574,500). Enron made $1.54 million from the auctions, and Phillips’ commission on the sales was $214,634, according to court documents. ``We’re pleased that the auction process enabled us to maximize the value of these assets for our creditors,’’ said Enron spokeswoman Karen Denne.

The collection is among dozens of assets the company has liquidated to help pay its more than $67 billion of debt. Once the nation’s seventh-largest company, Enron had a budget of $20 million to purchase art for its 50-story Houston headquarters. It appointed a three-member art selection committee, which included Lea Fastow, former assistant treasurer and wife of former Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow. The committee also included Barry Walker, a curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and Ned Rifkin, who was then director of the Menil Collection and Foundation in Houston.

The most important pieces were sold during two May 2003 contemporary art sales producing $1.31 million, exceeding the high presale estimate of $1.22 million. ``We didn’t see the purchase price for the works, so it’s hard to say if they made a profit,’’ said Aileen Agopian, a specialist in contemporary art for Phillips. ``In terms of overall quality it was very high and that’s why the results were so strong.’’ More than half the collection consisted of photographs, including some that date to the early 20th Century. Three works failed to sell. ``They had a survey of strong works from the past 100 years with a contemporary slant,’’ said Joshua Holdeman, director of Phillips photography department, who handled the sales of Enron’s photos.

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