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Monet Still Moving Major Moolah

from The New York Times

A Monet Sets a Record: $80.4 Million

Andy Rain/European Pressphoto Agency

“Le Bassin aux Nymphéas,” the record-breaking Monet.

LONDON — The summer auction season here began at Christie’s on Tuesday night when a standing-room-only crowd of dealers, collectors and art lovers came from all over the world to watch and bid on one of the largest London sales the auction house has held. Early in the evening a record price for a Monet, $80.4 million, was set for one of the rarest of his waterlilies.

A sea of hands shot in the air when that painting, “Le Bassin aux Nymphéas,” which had been expected to sell for $36 million to $47 million, came up on the block.  The previous record for a Monet, $41.4 million for “The Railroad Bridge at Argenteuil,” was set last month at Christie’s in New York.

“Le Bassin aux Nymphéas,” from 1919, a large horizontal work measuring more than 3 feet by 6 feet, is from a series of four that Monet signed and dated and that experts consider to be among the most important paintings from his late period. Unlike most of his late works, which remained unfinished at the time of his death in 1926, this series was sold by him. One is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; another was cut in two; and a third is in a private collection, having been sold at Christie’s in New York in 1992 for $12.1 million, a stellar price at the time.

The Monet up for auction Tuesday belonged to J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller, collectors from Columbus, Ind. Mr. Miller, the chairman of the Cummins Engine Company who died in 2004, and Mrs. Miller, who died in February, helped transform Columbus into a showcase for modern architecture by supporting historic buildings and projects.

In addition to the Monet the Millers also owned a Cubist Picasso, another popular work in the auction. “La Carafe (Bouteille et Verre),” painted in the winter of 1911-12, went to a telephone bidder for $7.3 million, above its high $5.9 million estimate.

Another big seller on Tuesday was “Dancers at the Bar,” a Degas pastel being sold by an unidentified private collector. The work, from around 1880, is considered important not only for its composition — two young dancers, their white skirts and pink ballet slippers perfectly rendered — but also because of its provenance. It had been owned by Louisine Elder, the wife of H. O. Havemeyer, the American sugar magnate whose bequest forms the bulk of the Met’s Degas collection. The pastel remained in the Havemeyer family for three generations before being sold at Christie’s in New York in 1982 for $1 million. 

Playing to Russian collectors, Christie’s sale included a group of works by Russian artists. One, called “The Flowers,” from 1912, by Nathalia Goncharova, was estimated to bring $6.9 million to 8.9 million. It sold for $10.8 million, a price that set two records: for the artist at auction, and for a female artist at auction.

Several works that had belonged to Simon Sainsbury, the British philanthropist and grocery store magnate who died in 2006, were also for sale Tuesday. Among the best was an early pointillist painting by Signac, “Collioure, Les Balancelles,” a composition of sailboats in the water created in September and October 1887 while he was in the seaside Mediterranean town of Collioure. The painting sold for $5.8 million, higher than its expected estimate of $3.6 million to $4.9 million.

[ click to read full article in the New York Times ]

Posted on June 25, 2008 by Editor

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