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Impressionist 'chef' by Chaim Soutine cooks up record art sale at Christie's in New York
"Le petit pâtissier" by Chaim Soutine is hung by a Christie's employee during a preview of Christie's Impressionist and Modern Art. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel Dunand.

NEW YORK (AFP).- An Impressionist oil painting depicting a chef in his whites has fetched a tasty $18 million -- the most ever paid at auction for a work by the artist Chaim Soutine.

Soutine's "Le Petit Patissier" (The Little Pastry Chef), was the highlight of the Christie's auction in New York on Wednesday. It was estimated before the sale to be worth $16-22 million.

Christie's said Soutine's rosy-cheeked chef, the sixth of a renowned series painted in about 1927, set an auction record for the Russian-born French artist. The previous highest result for any of his works was $17.2 million in London in 2007.

Marc Chagall's unusual "Three Acrobats" was the second most expensive work at the Manhattan sale, taking $13 million, well over the $6-9 million estimate.

However, Andre Derain's 1905 "Portrait de Madame Matisse au kimono," estimated at $15-20 million, failed to find a buyer. Christie's had heralded the painting of Matisse's wife as "the most important portrait" ever auctioned by Derain, the co-founder of Fauvism.

There was better news for Egon Schiele's "Selbstbildnis mit Modell (Fragment)," from 1913. It had been estimated at $5-7 million, but sold for $11.3 million.

Christie's said the overall performance showed a strong market, with 94 percent of 49 lots selling. Four of these sold for more than $10 million and 10 others for more than $5 million.

On Tuesday, rival Sotheby's also had robust results, with a record $15.3 million paid for a version of Rodin's sculpture "The Thinker." It also sold Paul Cezanne's "Les Pommes," a landmark in modern art history, for $41.6 million.

Brooke Lampley, Christie's head of Impressionist and modern art, said that with "all but three works sold and exceptional sell-through rates of 94 percent by lot and 90 percent by value, this sale ranks among the strongest we have hosted in this category in New York.

"In all, it was gratifying to witness a sophisticated and intelligent market at work, and see the strong collecting trends from our winter sales in London gain even more momentum here in New York."

© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

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May 10, 2013

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