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‘Quality wins’ — Monet’s world auction record is broken in New York

The best result for an Impressionist & Modern Art sale at Christie’s since May 2014 also includes a world auction record for Kandinsky as 20th Century Week total passes $584 million

The world auction record for Claude Monet was eclipsed after an epic 14-minute bidding battle in the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in New York. The saleroom burst into applause when Meule, one of the last of the artist’s great Grainstack series left in private hands, finally sold for $81,447,500 / £65,210,168 — just over $1 million more than the previous record, which was set at Christie’s London in 2008.

The sale totalled $246,344,500 / £197,233,387 — achieving 81 per cent by lot and 88 per cent by value — taking the running total for 20th Century Week at Christie’s to $584 million, with more auctions still to come.

This was the highest result for an Impressionist & Modern Art sale at Christie’s since May 2014. ‘The Impressionist & Modern Art market is alive and well,’ commented a delighted Brooke Lampley, Head of Department, after the sale. ‘The market is motivated by the quality of material that’s available, and with Impressionism, the highest quality is getting more and more scarce.’ Registered bidders came from 33 different countries.

Video: Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944). Rigide et Courbé, 1935. Oil and sand on canvas, 44⅞ x 63⅞ in (114 x 162.4 cm). Sold for $23,319,500 on 16 November 2016

A new world auction record was also set for Wassily Kandinsky, whose Rigide et Courbé (1935) — the most important of the artist’s Paris period paintings to ever appear on the market — sold for $23,319,500. The work was bought directly from the artist by Solomon R. Guggenheim, who sold it to its only other previous owner in 1964.

The sale also featured a superb selection of 11 works in all mediums by Pablo Picasso, with the standout result being the $22,647,500 / £18,132,506 paid for Buste de femme (Dora Maar), painted in May 1938. The buyer was the Japanese collector Yusaku Maezawa, who in May of this year bought an untitled 1982 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat for a record-breaking $57.3 million at Christie’s New York.

Picasso’s Homme á la pipe, painted in May 1969, was the fourth-highest priced lot of the night, selling for $18,391,500 / £14,724,980. The Picasso works in the sale totalled $59.9 million; 17 works sold for $3 million or more on the night.

‘Quality wins is the real take-away from this season of sales,’ concluded Christie’s Global President Jussi Pylkkänen, who underlined how Christie’s 20th Century marquee weeks reflect the fact that collectors are now looking to buy right across the century, from Impressionism through to the best in Contemporary art.