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.

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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