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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with a new way of marketing high-end art.

Spring auction season has kicked off in New York City. Yesterday, paintings by Picasso and Monet helped the auction house, Christie's, cello most $300 million worth of paintings.

As NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports, this year, Christie's is promoting its auctions in a new way, with something that looks a lot like a music video.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: It's pretty slick.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BLAIR: Shot in slow motion, set to music by the electronic rock band Awolnation, the video opens in the Warehouse at Christie's. Art handlers are moving wrapped boxes. Two of them open one to reveal a photograph from Richard Prince's "Cowboy" series. And then, a longhaired skateboard dude rides by...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAIL")

AWOLNATION: (Singing) Sail.

BLAIR: Skateboarder does some jumps and cruises by renowned works by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Loic Gouzer of Christie's says he wanted to give viewers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of an auction house and show the artworks in a looser, less formal way.

LOIC GOUZER: We always show art in the same way, on pristine galleries, on white walls and I think that if you change a bit the context, you infuse it with a new meaning.

BLAIR: But here's the thing: The estimates for the artwork shown in this youthful, edgy video reach as high as $12 million.

MICHAEL MILLER: I thought the video was ridiculous.

BLAIR: Michael Miller, who covers art for the New York Observer, says it's as if Christie thinks it can have it both ways.

MILLER: As if they're marketing to a bunch of punk rockers who like skateboarding but, you know, have an extra $10 million just on standby to spend on a Warhol.

BLAIR: Christie's Loic Gouzer says he knows some people will hate it and some will like it. He admits he wants the video to generate buzz among young people, even though most of them might not be able to fathom spending $12 million on a painting.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

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