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SOTHEBY’S LOANED HALF OF RECORD SUM FOR `IRISES’

SHARE SOTHEBY’S LOANED HALF OF RECORD SUM FOR `IRISES’

Sotheby's loaned Australian businessman Alan Bond half of the record $53.9 million he paid two years ago for Vincent Van Gogh's "Irises," a Sotheby's spokeswoman said Friday.

Spokeswoman Diana Levitt said Bond has repaid "significantly more than half" of the approximately $27 million that the auction house loaned him.Levitt would not discuss the terms of the loan but said the auction house has offered loans, which are described in Sotheby's brochures, to its clients for at least 10 years.

"There's nothing new here," she said. "Our loan service is something we are delighted to provide to our clients. We do it carefully and conservatively."

Bond's business empire has been under pressure lately, and an aide to Bond recently revealed the loan arrangement as he discussed Bond's business affairs.

The price paid for "Irises" was considered significant because its sale came one month after the Oct. 19 crash of the stock market. Many in the art world feared the art auction market would suffer because of the crash. Those concerns, however, were laid aside when Bond bought the painting in November 1987 at a price that remains unsurpassed for a piece of art.