Sotheby’s sold $726.7 million of art in two days in New York, with works by Pablo Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh leading the way.
At the Impressionist and modern art evening sale on Thursday, the tally was $306.7 million, a 27.3 percent decline from the similar event a year ago. Two preceding auctions from the collection of Sotheby’s former chairman A. Alfred Taubman helped the company reach the higher total.
The sales kicked off 10 days of semiannual bellwether auctions in New York. Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips target more than $2.1 billion in sales of Impressionist, modern, postwar and contemporary art. It’s the first big test of the art trade since the stock market rout in August and September.
The result on Thursday was within the estimate of $275.6 million to $369.2 million. Of the 47 offered lots, 11 failed to sell while several top lots drew meager bidding. Sotheby’s sold $575.8 million of Impressionist and modern art in two days.
The most expensive work was billionaire William Koch’s Picasso painting, “La Gommeuse,” created at the start of the artist’s “Blue Period” in 1901. It fetched $67.5 million, selling in the room to Doris Ammann, a Zurich-based art dealer. The work had been estimated at more than $60 million.
Picasso was 19 when he painted the nude cabaret dancer with a pale face, red lips and black curls. There’s a second painting on the back of the canvas, an upside-down caricature of the artist’s friend and fellow Spaniard Pere Manach. Koch bought the work in 1984 for 1.4 million pounds, equivalent to about $1.7 million at the time, at Sotheby’s in London.
The second Koch painting, Claude Monet’s 1908 “Nympheas” fetched $33.9 million, within the estimated range of $30 million to $50 million. The 1908 canvas depicts the artist’s famous pond studded with water lilies in Giverny, France. Koch bought it for $8.4 million at Sotheby’s in New York in 2000.
The two pieces accounted for $101.3 million, a third of the evening’s tally and about 10 times what Koch paid for them.