Monday, November 02, 2009

Armstrong's Hirst Bike Sells for Half a Million Dollars

Despite cool weather and light attendance, Lance Armstrong's bike that he rode along the Champs Elysees at this year's Tour de France fetched $500,000 at a Sotheby's auction yesterday.

A cadre of Livestrong and Sotheby personnel waiting for bidders to arrive. Later they were all checking their Blackberry's, no doubt to see Armstrong's Twitters.

Seven of Armstrong's bikes in all were auctioned off for a total of $1.3 million, which will benefit his cancer research cause, Livestrong.

The event proved both on the frontline and behind the scenes, that Armstrong is a master marketer, with a Twitter before the event, and live updates during the auction, updates that were never even issued by his own group. If Armstrong has a PR firm, it might be time to let them go because frankly, no one can best his own tweets. 

The event was hosted for free by Sotheby's, though the Livestrong crew refused entry for journalists who wanted to attend the event citing lack of space. But only about 20 or so of the 120 invitation only guests had shown up by 7:45 pm, and some had already come and gone including real estate marketer Michael Shvo with a blond date on his arm.  Still, many bids are now made online or over the phone, so attendance at the event was not necessarily an indication of its success.

With me last night and also turned away was a New York Times freelance reporter who lost his wife to cancer. Those facts didn't seem to sway the gatekeepers whose names and contact information wasn't made public before the event. Trying to call Sotheby's ahead of time turned out to be a nightmare, with no one answering published phone numbers on the weekend. If they were trying to keep publicity away, they succeeded.

The best price $500K was fetched by the Damien Hirst bike which had been decorated with butterflies all over the frame and rims. The artist's cachet is certain to have lifted the price, but the fact that the seven-time Tour de France winner rode the OCLV Red Carbon Madone with SRAM gruppo over the finish line at the Champs Elysees in front of millions of the French this year may have upped its price a bit.

A cycling fan named David who lost several friends to cancer and became a triathelete a few years ago,  stood outside the Sotheby's entrance waiting for Armstrong in the cold said he would not ride the Hirst bike but would rather hang it on the wall. David who has done seven half iron mans and wakes up at 4 in the morning to do some of his events said that Armstrong was inspirational: "People who come back from that kind of illness like he did, it's amazing," he said.

The final bidder on the Hirst bike--if indeed they are male-- might also not want to ride the bike because its rims are pink, and the bike frame is covered with many pastel butterflies and a pink "TREK" logo. But those points had no effect on the price. And anyway, "Lance rode it,"  said David.

A time trial bicycle decorated with boxing-gloved cartoons and the words, "Never forget your beginner's spirit," by artist Yoshitomo Nara fetched $200,000.  That Speed Concept bike made with OCLV Red carbon and also with SRAM time trial components proved to be the second fastest by only 3 seconds in the individual time trial at Annecy on July 23rd, and secured Armstrong's third place position on podium in Paris.

Three people leaving only about one half hour after they arrived at the auction. Many of the bids may have been online or by phone.

KAWS, a bike with teeth stenciled all over its frame and wheel rims, went for $160,000. That bike, designed by Brian Donnelly was later labeled "The Widowmaker," because Armstrong crashed and broke his collarbone while riding it in the Vuelta de Castillo y Leon.

The fourth best price of $130K was paid for "The Stolen Bike," a bike that was stolen and later recovered at the Tour of California.  That OCLV Red carbon time trial bike marked Armstrong's return to cycling competition after being in retirement for almost four years. The number 1274/27.5 on this bike, and the others, is the number of days he had stopped racing during which time 27.5 million people died of cancer.

Mark Newson's Speed Concept bike, another Trek time trial bike, garnered $110K.  That OCLV Red carbon bike with SRAM time trial components was used in this year's opening time trial at the Tour de France. It's back wheel is painted with a stroboscopic design. "When filmed moving, the rear wheel should appear static," said Newson describing his work.

Michael Shvo getting into his car with his date about one half hour after arriving.

The Shepard Fairey decorated bike also went for $110K, and Kenny Scharf's creation, another time trialing machine used in the Giro D'Italia, fetched $45,000.

The lack of publicity for the event may well have been planned, since the public was not invited to the event, and bidders were by invitation only. Although stories ran in publications far away from New York City, no real New York press carried news of the event. Publicity was thin especially for the public viewing that took place for a week or so before the auction, and that can often drive real buyers to attend.

Those missteps were sure to affect the results of the bids, which also had very strong competition from an upcoming auction on Wednesday at Sotheby's of some of the most important art works in the world, including several Picassos, Miro's, and other grand masters from the Impressionist school. That auction has works estimated at $12 million.

Weighing all the negatives, including the date--on the eve of the NYC Marathon which snarled traffic for miles, and made traveling to the auction difficult, in terms of performance, the auction was quite successful, even coming close to Damien Hirst's solo Sotheby's London auction in 2008 that raised $200 million.

Other autograph hunters standing outside Sotheby's in the cold may have been disappointed last night, as they waited for hours for Armstrong to appear.

Below is a blow by blow of Armstrong's twitter last night:

Thank you to Sothebys for hosting us and donating ALL of their work to @livestrong. You rock!

1.3 mil raised for @livestrong!!! So incredibly humbling.

"Stolen Bike" goes for 130,000.00!!!

The "Stolen Bike" is up next...

The Newsom goes for 110,000.00!

Marc Newsome is up next..

KAWS goes for 160,000.00. Stunned.

The KAWS is up next..

The Shep Fairey goes for 110,000.00!! This is insane..

The Shep Fairey is up next.

The NARA goes for 200,000.00!!! 200 grand!

The Nara is up next. Rode it in the Annecy TT from this year's TdF.

The Kenny Scharf TT bike from the Giro goes for 45,000!!!

The Hirst bike from the Champs Elysses goes for 500,000.00!!! Half a million bucks!!!

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