The first of the fall’s New York auctions kicked off this evening, as Christie’s capped the first of the week’s Impressionist and Modern Evening sales, surging out of the gate with a strong series of sales that set an impressive tempo for the week, and laid down an impressive challenge to the other auction houses. Notching a final sales total of $480,414,000, Christie’s sent a strong message of stability in a year marked by uneven, unpredictable auction sales.
The sale was dominated by a series of striking sales that sale a number of major sales records fall by the wayside, with the auction house’s aggressive guarantees giving ample room for bidders to push prices towards the ceiling. Chief among these was the sale’s premiere lot, a Fernand Léger piece that blew out of the gate and reached a $62 million hammer, ultimately setting the artist’s record at $70,062,500. Another record fell in the lots leading up to the Léger, as Rene Magritte’s subdued L’empire des lumières clocked in at $20,562,500, setting a new high for the surrealist, and a third record dropped with Emil Nolde’s Indische Tänzerin, which realized $5,262,500, beating the artist’s previous high. Later in the sale, Edouard Vuillard also broke his past auction record, selling a canvas for $17,750,000.
Yet few artists’ work was immune from strong bids and high final tallies over the course of the evening, with a number of works seeing equally high bids that fell just short of previous auction records. A swirling Vincent van Gogh landscape notched a very solid final price of $81,312,500, while a Joan Miró work from the peak of the artist’s abilities also performed well, reaching estimate to sell for a final of $23,375,000. A Pablo Picasso piece late in the sale also finished to strong results, beating estimate to achieve a final price of $36,875,000. Another Picasso piece, Le Repos, also met estimate, selling at a final of $11,562,500.
The sale continued to achieve strong results well past the 50th lot, as another Pablo Picasso sold at estimate for a $17,187,500 final, before a string of tepid bids and passes brought the sale to a close.
With an impressive first outing by Christie’s in the books, it should be interesting to see how Sotheby’s responds tomorrow evening.
— D. Creahan
Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale [Auction Page]