Paintings by Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Amedeo Modigliani helped Christie’s sell $285.9 million of Impressionist and modern art in New York yesterday, 80 percent more than a year ago.
The result, which represented the second-highest tally in the category since May 2008, fell within the estimated presale range of $243.5 million to $358.9 million, the auction house said.
Of the 53 lots, 18 sold for more than $5 million and only six failed to find buyers. Clients from 36 countries, including China and Russia, registered to bid in the sale which kicked off two weeks of semi-annual auctions in New York. Asian bidders were active, winning at least two of the top 10 lots of the evening.
The sale was beefed up by consignments from three estates: copper heiress Huguette Clark, billionaire Edgar Bronfman and German collectors Viktor and Marianne Langen.
Although sales were strong, “the energy was a bit off,” New York art dealer Christophe van de Weghe said as he exited the midtown Manhattan room. “People are selective.”
Monet’s painting of a pond studded with water lilies fetched $24 million, or $27 million with buyer’s fees, compared to the presale estimate of $25 million to $35 million. The result was surprising, van de Weghe said, considering the work’s history and condition.
The vertical 1907 canvas, “Nympheas,” had belonged to reclusive heiress Clark, who died in 2011 at 104, leaving behind an estate valued at more than $300 million. Clark bought the pastel pond depiction in 1930, when she was 23 years old; it’s been off the market ever since.
The work drew initial bids from several Christie’s staffers but stalled at $24 million. The buyer was a private Asian client of Elaine Holt, Christie’s vice president and director of Impressionist and modern art in Hong Kong.
Picasso’s 1942 portrait of his lover Dora Maar sold by the Langen heirs also didn’t fly. It attracted a single bid of $20 million from art dealer Paul Gray, who was in the room. The final price of $22.6 million including fees fell short of the estimated range of $25 million to $35 million.