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May 05, 2012 12:00:00 AM
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Setting fire to art in Christie's posh Manhattan showrooms would usually get you arrested. But when a senior auctioneer lit up a $1 million art work Friday -- that was the point.

Brett Gorvy, head of Post-War and Contemporary Art for Christie's, held a lighter to one of 14 candle wicks protruding from "Untitled (Standing)," a more-than-life-sized wax sculpture of art collector and publisher Peter Brant.

Valued at between $700,000 and $1 million, Urs Fischer's sculpture features the collector in a grey suit and red tie, leaning on an ornate armchair. The wicks, "when lit, turn 'Untitled (Standing)' into a giant candle that slowly melts to the floor," the Christie's catalogue says.

The unusual work is part of Christie's annual spring sale of Contemporary art on Tuesday.

Luckily, anyone who buys the waxwork will get a fresh copy, Gorvy said. The buyer can then decide whether or not to torch their treasure.

"The idea is that they should be burned," Gorvy said. "You buy the concept."

Another illuminating offer from Fischer at Tuesday's auction will be "Mr. Watson -- come here -- I want to see you."

This consists of a standard light bulb at the end of long cord, which, when activated, swings wildly. If the Brant candle would barely fit on a dining room table, the crazed bulb would be more likely to injure someone than light their way.

"The functional object is transported from its practical use by a nearly pathological artistic rendering," the catalogue advises.

Estimated value: $300,000 to $400,000.

Those seeking art that stays in one place -- and in one piece -- will be able to choose from raft of top-end contemporary masterpieces.

These include Mark Rothko's "Orange, Red, Yellow," valued at $35 million to $45 million, and "FC 1," which is considered the most important work by Yves Klein to be offered at auction, and has a pre-sale estimate of $30 million to $40 million.

Christie's said Klein "risked his life and the life of his models" when he produced the work, using two paint-smeared nude women, a flamethrower and water.

Rival auction house Sotheby's holds its own Contemporary auction on Wednesday.

Highlights will include Pop Art master Roy Lichtenstein's "Sleeping Girl," estimated at $30 million to $40 million.



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