By Patricia Reaney
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Seasoned art collectors and first-time buyers wanting to own an Andy Warhol will get their chance next week when 125 paintings, drawings and photographs by the artist will be auctioned in a week-long cybersale.
The global online auction from February 26 through March 5 will include works with estimated values ranging from $600 to $70,000 and bring Warhol to a much broader audience.
Interested buyers can browse and bid online and will receive updates if a higher bid comes in.
"Increasingly clients are comfortable bidding in an online format," said Amy Cappellazzo, chairwoman of Post-War and Contemporary Development at Christie's, which is conducting the online sale.
"I think that the online space is for works of art under a certain price point," she added in an interview. "Works under $50,000 or $100,000 might well be conducted in an online capacity."
Cappellazzo also believes that Warhol, who died in 1987 before the Internet became globally accessible, would have approved of the cybersale.
"Andy would have loved the Internet. He would have loved the idea that his works could be distributed far and wide and that anyone who wanted one, could get one because bringing the works to an online format will allow anyone with a credit card to buy it. I think, for sure, he would have liked that."
Warhol's 1964 "Campbell's Chicken with Rice Soup," a tin soup can filled with concrete, which is one of several produced by him, is expected to be a highlight of the online sale with a pre-sale estimate ranging from $50,000 to $70,000.
"That is one of the top lots and we have sold others like it," said Cappellazzo.
"I Love Your Kiss Forever Forever," a lithograph based on an image of Marilyn Monroe's lips, could fetch as much as $5,000, and "Self-Portrait," a Polaroid print taken in 1986 the year before Warhol's death, has a pre-sale estimate of up to $25,000.
Another highlight is a T-shirt with the silk-screened image of Warhol's painting, "Self-Portrait in Fright Wig," which sold for $50,000 auction last year. It is expected to sell for as much as $20,000.
"Self portraits were a really important part of his production," said Cappellazzo. "He is an icon himself. He made his own body a work of art."
Proceeds from the sale will benefit the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, which announced in September that it would sell thousands of the artist's works through Christie's in-house auctions and online sales.
The foundation was established following Warhol's death to advance the visual arts. The cybersale is the second phase of Christie's partnership with the foundation, which will include other auctions, three more themed online sales this year, as well as private sales. Christie's in-house sale last November earned more than $17 million.
Joel Wachs, the president of the foundation, said in a statement that the online sale "will greatly expand access to Andy Warhol's work, in a fundamentally democratic manner that is entirely consistent with his art."
The highest price paid for a Warhol was $100 million for "Eight Elvises" in a private sale, according to Art Market Monitor.
The auction site does not go live until Tuesday, but the viewing site is www.christies.com/warhol.
(Editing by Kenneth Barry)