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Christie's Spring Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale achieves $117 million
Le Repos (Marie-Thérèse Walter), Picasso’s lovingly painted portrait of the young blonde muse who inspired his great 1932 series of masterpiece works, far exceeded its estimate of $5-7 million to realize $9,882,500 (£6,127,150/ €7,411,875). Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2012.

NEW YORK, NY.- A vivid Fauve still life by Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and a rediscovered study for a modern masterpiece by Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) led the May 1 Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art at Christie’s New York, realizing a grand total of $117,086,000 (£72,593,320/ € 87,814,500) in just under one hour of bidding. A diverse audience of clients from around the world participated in the sale, which achieved strong sell-through rates of 90% by lot and 96% by value. Of the 31 works offered, 2 lots sold for over $15 million, 7 for over $5 million and 21 for over $1 million.

Marc Porter, Chairman, Christie’s Americas, commented: “This was a carefully edited sale that brought together collecting options at the highest level of market while hitting the market “sweet spot” of mid-priced works by blue-chip artists like Picasso, Matisse, Monet, and Moore. As a result, we saw our strongest sell-through percentages for this category in New York since 2006, which is a testament to the market-savvy of our Impressionist and Modern Art team. We are particularly pleased with the results achieved for Cézanne’s study for “Card Players” and for our cover lot, Matisse’s “Les Pivoines (The Peonies)”, which proved to be the perfect ode to spring in New York.”

The first top price of the night was achieved for Cézanne’s Joueur de cartes (Card Player), a rare watercolor study that had been assumed lost by art historians until it re-emerged from a private collection in Texas earlier this year. Meticulously preserved, with fresh and unfaded hues of blue and ochre, Joueur de cartes offers a tantalizing view into the painting process of one of Modern Art’s great masters. The study sold for $19,122,500 (£11,855,950/ €14,341,875) to an anonymous bidder in the room.

Shortly afterward, Henri Matisse’s Les Pivoines soared above its pre-sale estimate of $8-12 million to match the price of the Cézanne study, selling for $19,122,500 (£11,855,950/ €14,341,875) to a bidder on the phone. Painted in 1907 in the remote fishing village of Collioure, the painting is emblematic of the feverishly colored canvases Matisse and his protégé André Derain first began producing in 1905 as a bold exploration of form and color. High Fauve paintings by Matisse come to market only rarely, which led to intense competition in the saleroom at Christie’s with over 20 individual bids from clients in the room and on the phone.

In keeping with collector demand for blue-chip works of the period, the sale also featured important works by Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet and Henry Moore, among others. All six of the Picasso works offered were pursued by buyers, including: Le Repos (Marie-Thérèse Walter), Picasso’s lovingly painted portrait of the young blonde muse who inspired his great 1932 series of masterpiece works, far exceeded its estimate of $5-7 million to realize $9,882,500 (£6,127,150/ €7,411,875). Of all the outstanding portraits of the series, Le Repos is among the most innovative, with its closely cropped horizontal composition that lends a sense of heightened intimacy to the work. It was painted in May of 1932 at the Château de Boisgeloup, just a few short months after Picasso completed Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, his tour-de-force depiction of a reclining Marie-Thérèse that sold in May 2010 at Christie’s New York for a record $106.5 million and remains the most expensive painting ever sold at auction.

Similarly, Picasso’s Femme assise, a 1953 painting of a raven-haired woman that conflates his earlier, searing portraits of Dora Maar with the fractured visage of Françoise Gilot, sold for $5,234,500 (£3,245,390/ €3,925,875) against an estimate of $2.5-3.5 million; Picasso’s Sur la terrasse, a 1933 work on paper from the Collection of Evelyn D. Haas, a prominent San Francisco collector and philanthropist, realized $1,594,500 (£988,590/ €1,195,875), against an estimate of $500,000-700,000; Femme dans l'atelier, a masterful 1956 portrayal of Jacqueline Roque from Picasso’s acclaimed atelier series painted in homage to his great rival Matisse, sold for $4,114,500 (£2,550,990/ €3,085,875); Mousquetaire et nu assis, a large-format painting from 1967 that is among the artist’s great musketeer paintings of his last decade, realized $4,226,500 (£2,620,430/€3,169,875); and Deux nus couchés, a large-format depiction of two reclining nudes totaled $8,818,500 (£5,467,470/ € 6,613,875).

Among the sculptural works featured in the sale, Reclining figure, Henry Moore’s (1898-1986) monumental bronze conceived in 1956 at the height of his career, realized $5,010,500 (£3,106,510/ €3,757,875). The sculpture is unusual among his reclining figures in that it captures his female subject seemingly in mid-motion, halfway between a state of dormancy and awakening. The market for Moore works internationally is at peak this spring; in February, Christie’s London set a new world auction record for the artist with the sale of Reclining figure: Festival, which soared to $30.1 million after a protracted bidding battle.

Similarly, Edgar Degas’s (1834-1917) Grande arabesque, deuxième temps, an exquisitely balanced and poised bronze of the artist’s signature dancer, exceeded its estimate of $500,000-700,000 to realize $1,022,500 (£633,950/ €766,875). The figure was a favorite of famed collectors H.O. and Louisine Havemeyer, who acquired the work directly from the foundry in 1921. It was offered at auction from the Collection of Peter H.B. Frelinghuysen, Jr., heir to the Havemeyers’ exceptional collecting legacy.

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