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Evening fine art sale from the Collection of Elizabeth Taylor achieves $21.8 million
A Christie's staff poses with an artwork, entitled Vue de l'asile et de la Chapelle de Saint-Remy, by Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) during an auction preview in London, Britain. EPA/KERIM OKTEN.

LONDON.- The three top works of Impressionist and Modern art from the storied Collection of Elizabeth Taylor fetched a combined £13,787,750 ($21,784,645 /€16,572,876) at Christie’s London Tuesday evening, more than doubling their pre-sale low estimate of £6.2 million. An additional 35 works from the film star’s fine art collection will be offered for sale February 8 as part of Christie’s continuing sales series devoted to Impressionist and Modern Art. Further results for the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale will be announced at the close of the sale.

At Tuesday’s sale, Miss Taylor’s Van Gogh, entitled Vue de l’asile et de la Chappelle de Saint-Rémy, fetched the top price of the group at £10,121,250 ($15,991,575 /€12,165,743). The luminous landscape, painted in the turquoise and ochre hues of early autumn, is a view of the asylum where the artist spent his last months. Elizabeth Taylor’s father, the art dealer Francis Taylor, had purchased the painting on her behalf at auction in 1963 for £92,000. Up until her death in March of 2011, the painting had hung in the living room of Miss Taylor’s home in Bel Air, CA.

In the saleroom on Tuesday evening, bidding for the Van Gogh opened at £3 million and was immediately pursued by multiple clients in the room and on phone. It was sold after four minutes of competitive bidding to an anonymous client on the phone.

Earlier in the sale, a youthful self-portrait by Edgar Degas (1834-1917) sold for £713,250 ($1,126,935 / € 857,327) and a large-scale landscape by Claude Pissarro (1830-1903) entitled Pommiers à Éragny realized £2,953,250 ($4,666,135 /€ 3,549,807). All three works were prominently featured in the global tour of highlights from the Collection of Elizabeth Taylor, which reached New York and London last fall. In December 2011, Christie’s New York sold Miss Taylor’s exquisite collections of jewelry, fashion, decorative arts and memorabilia in a four-day marathon auction series that totaled $156.8 million and set multiple new auction records (see summary release here).

Though her jewelry collection was widely heralded as one of the finest private collections ever, few realized the significance of her fine art collection, most of which was displayed only in her home in Bel Air. Her love of fine art began in the home as a child and was encouraged by her father, who had a successful art gallery on London’s Old Bond Street and later, after the family’s move to Hollywood, in the Beverly Hills Hotel. As an adult, Miss Taylor went on to become a devoted admirer of Impressionist and Modern Art in particular. Her acute grasp of 19th and 20th century British and French paintings and drawings led her to assemble an important collection of works.

“The exceptional results for these three masterpieces by Van Gogh, Degas and Pissarro are further evidence of Elizabeth Taylor’s skill and sophistication as a collector,” noted Marc Porter, Chairman of Christie’s Americas. “As the crown jewel of her art collection, we are delighted with the price achieved for Van Gogh’s “Vue de l’asile”, a profoundly beautiful work from one of creative high points of the artist’s career. We look forward to more positive results tomorrow, when we offer the remainder of Miss Taylor’s art collection, including works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Maurice Utrillo, and Kees Van Dongen, as well as an impressive selection of modern British paintings by Augustus John that she inherited from her father.”

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February 8, 2012

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