A Monet water lilies painting has sold for nearly $US43.8
million and a Kandinsky fetched an artist's record
$US23 million ($NZ53.6 million) as Christie's kicked off the
auction season with a sale that saw many mid-level works
failing to find buyers.
"Nympheas," one of Monet's iconic water lilies from 1905,
executed during his years at Giverny, had been estimated to
sell for $US30 million to $US50 million, and just managed its
middle range with a final price of $US43,762,500 including
Wassily Kandinsky's "Studie fur Improvisation 8," meanwhile,
hit the low end of its $US20 million to $US30 million
estimate, and set a new auction record for the Russian
artist. The vibrant work was being sold by Switzerland's
But 30 percent of the 69 works on offer failed to sell when
bids failed to reach the reserve, the secret price at which a
client has agreed to sell a work.
In all the auction took in a total of just under $US205
million, missing the low pre-sale estimate of about $US210
million (estimates do not include commission charges of about
12 percent). The high estimate was about $US315 million.
Christie's nonetheless said it was pleased with the results.
"It was very, very strong sale, with great results" for top
lots including the Monet, and a Brancusi sculpture "Une
muse," which sold for $US12.4 million, said Brooke Lampley,
head of Impressionist and modern art.
"Classic Impressionism performed really well tonight."
Lampley also noted that the sale's unusually high percentage
of discretionary selling - when collectors decide to sell,
versus estate sales that happen because the owner is deceased
- was "very much a sign that collectors are feeling confident
in the market. They are choosing to sell," which she said was
a testament to the increasing strength of art as an asset
But the atmosphere in the room was muted and for works that
sold, bidding was steady but far from unbridled. Bidders
tried to cut increments in half from the next solicited bid,
and the salesroom was more than half empty before the sale
Officials privately attributed the relatively high percentage
of works that failed to sell - nearly one third - chiefly to
a single collection whose owner was unwilling to lower the
reserve prices in the days leading up to the sale.
In all, six lots sold for more than $US10 million each. Other
highlights included Miro's "Peinture (Femme, Journal, Chien),
which went for $US13.75 million, and Picasso's "Buste de
femme," and oil on canvas that at $US13 million was one of
the few works to beat its pre-sale estimate handily.
Proceeds from the Monet sale will benefit a private prep
school in Tarrytown, New York, which received the work in a
Two Giacometti sculptures, "La Jambe" and "Tete sur tige,"
fetched $US11.3 million and $US6.8 million respectively.
Among casualties were a Picasso sculpture, "Coq," estimated
at $US10 million to $US15 million, and works by Chagall and
Degas, the latter estimated to sell for as much as $US10
The auctions continue tomorrow when Sotheby's holds its
sale of Impressionist and modern art, which it postponed from
Monday due to Superstorm Sandy which hit the region last