Record $50.6 Million Mondrian Leads Christie’s $202 Million Impressionist and Modern Sale

Piet Mondrian, Composition No. III with Red, Blue, Yellow, and Black (1929), oil on canvas.
Piet Mondrian, Composition No. III with Red, Blue, Yellow, and Black (1929), oil on canvas.

Ending a blockbuster $2-billion New York auction season, Christie’s tallied $202.6 million at its Impressionist and modern art sale last night, doubling its $100-million presale estimate. Out of 43 lots offered, 40 found buyers.

The sale’s prize lot was a $50.6-million Piet Mondrian canvas, Composition No. III with Red, Blue, Yellow, and Black (1929), which nearly doubled the artist’s previous high of $27.6 million, set at Christie’s Paris in 2009. It smashed its modest presale low estimate of $15 million, selling after a 10-minute bidding contest to art advisor (and former Christie’s chairman of postwar and contemporary art) Amy Cappellazzo, bidding in the sales room on behalf of a client, according to a report in the New York Times.

Five other works sold for north of $10 million: a Fernand Léger canvas fetched $16.9 million, a Monet commanded $16.4 million, an Amedeo Modigliani went for $16 million, a Chaïm Soutine painting was snapped up for $15.6 million, and Edgar Degas’ pastel on board depicting dancers found a buyer at $11.9 million.

An auction at Phillips the same night saw considerable drama, with a pregnant auction-house staffer fainting during bidding on a Francis Bacon canvas (see Phillips $97 Million Sale Interrupted by Woman Fainting as Bids on a Bacon Hit $23 Million).

The sale came at the end of a frenzied two weeks of auctions, with Christie’s topping a billion dollars in a single week, setting new records for most expensive work of art at auction, as well as priciest sculpture ever at auction (see $179 Million Picasso Sets Stratospheric Record at Christie’s $705.9 Million “Looking Forward” Sale and $81.9 Million Rothko Leads Christie’s Frenzied $658.5 Million Contemporary Art Sale).

Sotheby’s sale of contemporary art, meanwhile, set records for Helen Frankenthaler, Sigmar Polke, Thomas Struth, Danh Vō, and Christopher Wool (see Sotheby’s Stellar $380 Million Evening Contemporary Sale Not Without A Few Bumps), while Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet led the Impressionist and modern auction the previous week (see Mysterious Asian Buyer Causes Sensation at Sotheby’s $368 Million Impressionist Sale).

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