NEW YORK, NY.-
Rare masterpieces by Claude Monet, Wassily Kandinsky and Constantin Brancusi led the November 7 Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art at Christies
New York, realizing a grand total of $204,800,000 (£129,024,000/ 159,744,000). A diverse audience of clients from around the world participated in the sale, which achieved sell-through rates of 70% by lot and 80% by value. Of the 69 works offered, 5 lots sold for over $10 million, 10 for over $5 million and 31 for over $1 million.
Tonight we were all reminded of the enduring power and appeal of great works of art. In the context of profound world events such as the presidential election in the United States, a transition of leadership in China, the tumult of the stock markets globally, and even the shock of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the art market united in enthusiasm for Impressionist & Modern masterworks by artists as varied as Claude Monet, Wassily Kandinsky and Constantin Brancusi. We are honored and grateful to have stewarded these gems on behalf of private sellers and various nonprofit institutions alike, noted Brooke Lampley, Head of Impressionist & Modern Art at Christies New York.
The top price for the evening was achieved by Claude Monets Impressionist masterpiece Nymphéas (The Water Lilies), a view of the lily pond at Giverny from the iconic series that was the crowning achievement of the artists career. The painting dates from 1905, the year Monet began his most intensive work on a dazzling array of paintings of the lily pond at the heart of his garden. Working feverishly, he would complete more than 60 increasingly abstract views of the pond between 1905 and 1908, or about one every three weeks. The best works of the series including the present Nymphéas were selected for his 1909 exhibition at Galerie Durand-Ruel in Paris, which proved to be an unprecedented commercial and critical success for Monet. The work sold for $43,762,500 (£27,570,375 / 34,134,750) to an American private bidder on the telephone, achieving the second highest price for the artist at auction.
The Monet, along with two Impressionist landscapes by Camille Pissarro and Alfred Sisley, were offered at the auction by Hackley School, a not-for-profit K-12 independent school in Tarrytown, NY. The paintings were a bequest to the school from Ethel Strong Allen, a gift in keeping with the Allen familys long tradition of charitable support. Three generations of the Allen family have attended the school, and Mrs. Allens late husband served as a trustee and honorary trustee of Hackley for nearly 45 years. The sale of the three paintings raised a combined total of $50,871,500, making it one of the largest donations ever made to an independent school in New York State. Proceeds from their sale will benefit Hackleys long-term development goals.
Hackley School Headmaster Walter C. Johnson commented: This truly is a transformative moment in the life of our school, and it is exciting to imagine how this gift will shape our school as it moves forward into the coming decades. Now that the sale has been completed, we have the information needed to inform discussions with the Allen family on how the funds might support Hackleys programs.
Among the most anticipated lots of the sale was Wassily Kandinskys Expressionist tour-de-force Studie für Improvisation 8, from the artists pioneering series of 1909, which achieved $23,042,500 (£14,516,775/ 17,973,150) and set a new world auction record for the artist. The mystical scene of a conquering hero wielding a golden sword toppled the previous auction record for the artist of $20.9 million, set in 1990. Study for improvisation 8 was sold from the collection of the Volkart Foundation, a charitable trust founded by Volkart Brothers, a prominent Swiss commodities trading firm established in 1851. Proceeds from the sale of the painting will benefit the Foundations charitable programs.
TOP SCULPTURAL WORKS
Leading the sculptural works in the auction was Constantin Brancusis masterpiece Une Muse, a pivotal work in plaster from 1912 that sold for $12,402,500 (£7,813,575/ 9,673,950). With its upright pose, elegantly curving neck and expressive features, Une Muse captures a critical moment in the artists creative evolution and has been widely heralded as a pivotal composition in Brancusis mature career. Brancusis delicate, stylized rendering of a womans head drew widespread accolades from collectors and the press when it debuted at the inaugural Armory Show of 1913 in New York, and has now been requested for inclusion in the centenary celebration of the show next year.
A trio of bronze sculptures by Giacometti also performed well, led by La Jambe (The Leg), a seven foot tall depiction of a human leg. Modeled in the thin, elongated form for which the artist is best known, La Jambe is the artists final statement in a series devoted to depictions of isolated body parts. The work sold for $11,282,500 (£7,107,975/ 8,800,350) to the Richard Gray Gallery. Two additional bronzes, Tête sur tige conceived in 1947, and Tête sans crane, conceived in 1957-58, achieved $6,802,500 and $5,570,500, respectively.
ADDITIONAL SALE HIGHLIGHTS
An exceptional group of Picasso works was led by Buste de femme of 1937, an unusually warm and intimate portrait of the artist's raven-haired muse, the photographer Dora Maar, sold for $13,074,500 (£8,236,935/ 10,198,110). Arrayed in sophisticated evening dress, with a splash of rouge on her cheeks, this smiling vision of Picassos famously mercurial mistress counts among the most open and accessible of his depictions of her. Picasso kept the painting in his personal collection for nearly 30 years after its completion, leaving it to his second wife Jacqueline Roque upon his death.
Surrealist works were led by Joan Mirós Peinture (Femme, Journal, Chien) from 1925, which achieved $13,746,500 (£8,660,295/ 10,722,270). Painted with whimsical humor in a bright palette of yellow, red, black and white, the work draws the viewer into the artists distinctive visual world of signs and symbols, capturing with just the sparest of elements the artists charming vision of a pretty young woman walking her dog on the streets of Paris. In a clever play on words, Miró inserts into the girls hand a folded newspaper revealing the word jou which may be read as an abbreviation for the newspaper Le Journal, or more slyly as an allusion to the girls playful nature.