From dollar bills to butterflies, Warhol sale to set Hong Kong aflutter

By Alexandra Hoegberg

HONG KONG (Reuters) - More than 40 works by pop artist Andy Warhol will be displayed at an exhibition hosted by the auction house Sotheby's in Hong Kong, with the most expensive piece valued at about $1 million.

The collection, "From Warhol, With Love," focuses primarily on Warhol's early ink-on-paper work from the 1950's and is brought to Hong Kong from the auction house's gallery in New York.

Warhol travelled to Hong Kong and other places in the region in 1956, and his Asian experiences inspired some of the gold and butterfly themes that can be seen in the exhibition, according to Jacqueline Wachter, specialist on contemporary art at Sotheby's New York.

"China was important to him, and hopefully he will be important to China," Wachter said at a media briefing on Wednesday, ahead of the exhibition's opening night.

Although the early works presented by Sotheby's this week are not very well known in Asia, local connoisseurs are not strangers to Warhol, says Angelika Li, gallery director at Sotheby's Hong Kong. When it comes to art from the West, he is a household name in the region, she said.

"Our collectors here are very aware, very learned about Andy Warhol and his artistic career, and his charisma, his humour, his colours and his concepts, and how he translated his own ideas through his art," said Li.

The appetite for Warhol's work could be felt in Hong Kong already at the beginning of the year, when about 400 of his pieces exhibited at the Hong Kong Museum of Art attracted more than 250,000 visitors over 16 weeks.

The exhibition is expected to draw not only local private collectors and galleries, but rather a mix of Asian and international enthusiasts.

Each of the 46 pieces in the collection has an estimated value of between US$10,000-1 million, and the exhibition is open to the public from September 12-24.

The most valuable work work is "Ten One Dollar Bills" (1962).

(Reporting By Alexandra Hoegberg; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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