The curtain went up on a hotly anticipated 20th Century season at Christie’s in New York with the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale, which totalled $279,253,500 (£214,810,385). The auction was 85 per cent sold by lot and 79 per cent by value, with bidding from 35 countries.
The highest price of the night was achieved for Claude Monet’s Le bassin aux nymphéas, which realised $31,812,500. Painted between 1917 and 1919, this large canvas is one of 14 compositionally connected paintings of the lily-covered pond at Giverny — the forerunners of Monet’s crowning, mural-sized Grandes Décorations.
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The top lot was one of six paintings by Monet in the sale, including Jeune fille dans le jardin de Giverny, which realised $16,062,500, and Effet de neige à Giverny, which drew applause from the saleroom when it was hammered down for $15,500,000 — more than three times its low estimate.
The latter, a stunning winter scene, was one of two works from The Collection of Elizabeth Stafford. Combined with the Brancusi sold last season and a dedicated sale earlier this month, the collection total now stands at more than $94 million.
There were an impressive 15 works by Pablo Picasso offered in the auction, which sold for a combined total of $88,866,500 — further evidence of collectors’ continued appetite for the artist.
La Lampe, painted between January and June of 1931, sold for $29,562,500; the painting illuminates Picasso’s secret feelings for his new mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter. The portraits of Picasso’s different lovers and muses from the Sam Rose and Julie Walters Collection achieved $20,737,500.
The total for The Collection of Herbert and Adele Klapper, which included paintings by Picasso, Cézanne, Pissarro, and Renoir, moved to $41,143,500, with further works offered in the forthcoming American Art sale in New York as well as during Classic Week in London in December.
The four works from The Collection of A. Jerrold Perenchio, the media mogul and philanthropist, all sold, and were led by Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure ($9,312,500). Further works from the collection are offered in the coming days.
‘The collections were the lifeblood and bedrock of the sale,’ said Head of Department Max Carter in the post-auction press conference. ‘We have been blessed this season.’
There were two artist world records set on the night. The first was for Jean Arp, whose Déméter sold for $5,825,000, almost $1 million more than the previous high. Fourteen lots later it was the turn of Tamara de Lempicka, when La Musicienne (1929), which features in the first frame of Madonna’s video for Vogue, went past its high estimate to realise $9,087,500.
Other highlights included Alberto Giacometti’s bronzes Le Chat and Femme Assise, which sold for $17,187,500 and $13,812,500 respectively; Picasso’s Femme accoudée, a beautiful work on paper from The Klapper Collection, which was was bought for $12,125,000; and Pissarro’s La Rue Saint-Lazare, temps lumineux, which achieved $12,350,000.
Christie’s 20th Century season continued with Alberto and Diego Giacometti: Masters of Design, which totalled $11,467,250 (more than twice its high estimate) and was 100 per cent sold. The highest price of the auction — $2,232,500 — was achieved for Diego Giacometti’s ‘Berceau’ low table, Modèle aux Renards, conceived circa 1975.
The Impressionist and Modern Art Works on Paper sale and the Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale realised a combined total of $38,216,500, taking the running total for 20th Century season to $328,937,250. The online only sale Picasso Ceramics: Including Property from the Collection of Joan A. Mendell was 100 per cent sold for $1,924,625, as was Selections from the Israel Museum, Jerusalem Sold to Benefit the Acquisitions Fund, which totalled $217,500. The total for Impressionist and Modern Art during the season was 330,079,375.