Christie’s $146-Million Impressionist and Modern Art Sale Quietly Closes Fall Auction Season
The top lot was a Cubist still life by Pablo Picasso.
The heart of the New York fall auction season came to a close Thursday night with an unspectacular $145.5-million sale of Impressionist and modern art at Christie’s New York. The total fell within the presale estimate for the evening ($108.7 million to $157.5 million). Some 49 of 59 works, or 83 percent, found buyers.
Christie’s equivalent auction last year totaled $165 million, and saw a Manet canvas sell to the Getty Museum for $65 million. Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern sale this past week totaled $306 million.
While Thursday night’s results seem meager, to be fair, what would typically have been the priciest lot in the sale of work from these historical categories was assigned to an earlier, themed Christie’s auction, “The Artist’s Muse.” In that sale, Amedeo Modigliani‘s Nu Couché (Reclining Nude), 1917–18, became the second-priciest lot in auction history at $170.4 million.
The sale did set one auction record, for Jean Hélion, at $3.4 million, for the 1935 painting Abstraction, which soared past its presale high estimate of $800,000.
Pablo Picasso’s Analytical Cubist still life La carafe—Bouteille et verre (1911-12) came in as the night’s top lot, selling for $10.5 million, slightly over its $9-million presale high estimate. Thursday night’s anonymous seller had picked up the canvas for $7.3 million at Christie’s London in 2008.
Coming in second for the evening was a Paul Cézanne still life of apples, Pommes sur un Linge, that was once briefly stolen from the Art Institute of Chicago and held hostage, according to the auction catalogue, before being returned safely. The museum would then sell the work to a Japanese buyer in 1987 for $2.3 million. Thursday, it fetched $9.1 million, falling short of its $10-million high estimate.
Henri Matisse’s Nu a la serviette blanche (circa 1901-1903) was one of the night’s bigger successes, doubling its $4.5-million high estimate to sell for $9.1 million, making it the night’s third-priciest lot.
Fetching $7.7 million on an estimate of up to $10 million was Henry Moore’s 12-foot-long bronze sculpture Two Piece Reclining Figure: Points (conceived in 1969-1970 and cast by 1973). Other examples of the piece, cast in an edition of seven, reside in the Düsseldorf Hofgarten and the Pinakotheke der Moderne, Munich.
Also among the night’s top sellers were a 1970 Joan Miró sculpture, Personnage, at $7.1 million, a Marc Chagall canvas that brought $6.9 million, a Rene Magritte painting that went for $6.7 million, and Claude Monet’s Iris jaunes au nuage rose (1924–25), showing yellow irises against a blue sky and pink clouds, which sold for $5.8 million, falling short, even with the house’s fees, of its $6-million estimate. Painted at the artist’s Giverny estate, the 3-foot-square oil had sold at auction twice before: at Sotheby’s New York in May 1995 for $607,500 and at Christie’s New York in 1999 for $1 million.
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