Concerns about a softening Impressionist/Modern market vanished Wednesday evening at Christie's New York with a stellar sale fetching $142.9 million. Falling just $6 million shy of its high estimate, all but seven of the 59 lots found buyers, including a previously unrecorded Constantin Brancusi sculpture that shattered the world record for any sculpture at $27.4 million. Compared to Sotheby's lackluster result twenty-four hours earlier, Christie's delivered a near perfect peformance.
TOP FIVE PRICES Constantin Brancusi, Oiseau dans l'espace (Bird in Space) Price - $27.4 million Estimate - $8-12 million
Crated and left alone for decades in a Brussels bank vault, the remarkable pale blue/gray marble sculpture with its streamlined stone cylinder and base was rediscovered just months ago. Authenticated by a trio of world-renown Brancusi experts, the fiction-like discovery tantalized at least six deep-pocketed collectors. Bidding on the 1922-23 carved marble opened at $4.8 million and shot skyward at $500,000 increments. Underbidders included New York private dealer Andrew Ruth, Jeffrey Deitch and London dealer David Juda before two anonymous telephone bidders dueled alone for the prize.
Pablo Picasso Tte et main de femme Price $13.4 million Estimate $13 million
Hailing from the artist's neo-classical period, this 1921 cropped example of an extra-large, toga-clad female figure is not only important and rare but carries quite a past. It was looted by the Nazis in German Occupied Paris in 1940 and wasn't returned to the heirs of famed art collector Alphonse Kahn until 2003. The sculptural form resembles a pastiche of Greek and Roman influences, interpreted through Picasso's genius.
Paul Cezanne Les grands arbres au Jas de Bouffan Price $11.7 million Estimate $12-16
A stunning landscape of tall trees painted plein-air from the artist's family estate in Aix-en- Provence, the circa 1885-87 composition is Impressionist in feel and vocabulary yet decidedly modern in execution. Cezanne painted the gently rolling terrain there for some forty years, close by his beloved landmark of Mont Saint-Victoire. It last sold at auction for 5.1/$7.9 million at Sotheby's London in June 1996 by this evening's seller, The Maspro Art Museum, Japan.
The saying goes that you can never be too rich or too thin and this 65 inch high bronze of a standing female nude certainly qualifies for the part. Conceived in 1947 and cast in 1960, the same year it was acquired by Chicago collectors Ruth and Harvey Kaplan, the bronze, with its black and green patina hails from an edition of six. Giacometti's ongoing obsession with elongated forms comes close to perfection in Femme Leoni.
Claude MonetVetheuil, aprs-midi Price $6.6 million Estimated $7-10 million
Though the buoyant evening was dominated by more modern fare, this Impressionist beauty from 1901 seemingly hovers between epochs. One of fifteen oils of the picturesque village painted in 1901, it represents the artist's serial approach to painting that dominated the rest of his extraordinary career. To achieve his postcard-like perspective, Monet rented a modern apartment across the Seine in the village of Lavacourt and drove there in his chauffeured car every afternoon with his wife to paint the arresting view. This example is full of the rosy light of one summer afternoon.
HOTTEST LOT: Constantin BrancusiBird in Space. Christie's knew it had a winner coming into the sale, but the depth of bidding over $15 million surprised the specialists. The record price dwarfed the previous mark of $18.1 million, set at Christie's New York in May 2002 when Brancusi's extraordinary, eleven inch high Danaide, cast in bronze with gold leaf from circa 1913, flew off the charts.
BEST QUOTE "You don't always get what you want," said a surprised Lady Angela Nevill of London's Nevill Keating Pictures Ltd. after outbidding the competition for Amedeo Modigliani's sultry Donna con collana rossa from 1918 (est. $4-6 million) that realized $4.6 million. Images courtesy of Christie's, New York <AIM ID=735 TIP=auction_main_2005-5-5.jpg/> <AIM ID=736 TIP=auction_2005-5-5_1.jpg/> <AIM ID=737 TIP=auction_2005-5-5_2.jpg/> <AIM ID=738 TIP=auction_2005-5-5.jpg/> <AIM ID=739 TIP=auction_2005-5-5_4.jpg/> <AIM ID=740 TIP=auction_2005-5-5_5.jpg/>