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Cezanne, Van Gogh, Modigliani - champions at Christie’s

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Impressionists and modernists are back on the right track at last! This May, Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale confirmed this. The works of Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Amedeo Modigliani, Balthus and Pierre Bonnard were sold for an impressive eight-figure prices. The last two artists' paintings set the world records. As a result, the sale raised $399 million from 63 lots.
Paul Cézanne, Bouilloire et fruits (1888−90), owned by S.I. Newhouse Jr. Draws, hammered at $52 million, well above its on-request estimate in the region of $40 million, and with fees the total came to $59.3 million. The final bid of $52 million was made by Christie’s Asia president Rebecca Wei, on behalf of the client by phone.

But in truth, this figure even with fees was not enough to overtake Cézanne's auction record, set in May 1999. Then one — still unknown — bidder shocked the world, paying $ 60.5 million for a still life "Curtain, Jug and Fruit Bowl" (1894) from the collection of John Hay Whitney and his wife, Betsey Cushing Roosevelt Whitney, at Sotheby’s in New York. It should be noted that, with inflation, that price would be nearly $93 million now.
Vincent van Gogh. Trees in a shelter garden

Vincent van Gogh, "Arbres dans le jardin de l’asile" (1889). Private collection

The painting "Trees in the Garden of the Asylum" (1889) by Vincent van Gogh became the second most expensive lot of Evening Sale and also surpassed expectations. It was sold to another telephone bidder for $40 million against a low estimate of $25 million.

The artwork became the most expensive Van Gogh to sell since Christie’s offered "Enclosed Field with Ploughman, 1889" from the collection of Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass in November 2017, and it sold for $81 million with fees. But the most expensive work of the artist, ever hit the auction, it is still "Portrait of Dr. Gachet", bought in 1990 for 82.5 million dollars (with inflation, now the price would be 158.2 million).


The third champion of the evening was the Amedeo Modigliani limestone sculpture "Tête," dating from about 1911−12. Being attractive to both collectors of modern and contemporary art, Modigliani’s sculptures were on a roll at auction in recent years, achieving a price of $70.7 million in 2014.

The only bidder bought it by phone for the initial $ 30 million. Given that the lot was guaranteed by a third party, we can assume that it was captured by the guarantor. The result did not justify Christie’s ambitious preliminary estimate of $ 40 million, although, taking into account the fees, the final price was 34.3 million. The work, which was sold by a private European collectr, was advertised as one of the last Modigliani head sculpture, left in private hands.

A richly stunning Modigliani portrait "Lunia Czechowska (à la robe noire)" from collection of Drue Heinz hammered at $22 million ($25.2 million with fees) to Cyanne Chutkow, deputy chairman of Christie’s Imp/mod department in New York, well ahead of its high estimate of $18 million.
  • Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920). Tête. Price realised USD 34,325,000
  • Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920). Lunia Czechowska (à la robe noire). Price realised USD 25,245,000
The Heinz collection had also consigned "La Terrasse ou Une terrasse à Grasse (1912)" by Pierre Bonnard that broke the record and became the most expensive piece in the heritage of the artist. The view full of colors and light was tentatively estimated at 5−8 million dollars. However, it doubled its high estimate of $8 million to hammer down at $17 million (or $19.5 million with fees).
Pierre Bonnard. Terrace in Grasse
Terrace in Grasse
1912, 125.3×134.4 cm
Before that, the leader among the paintings of this impressionist was "Terrace in Vernon" (1923), which went under the hammer in February 2011 for $ 11.6 million.
And a run of work from the collection of Dorothy and Richard Sherwood, who for decades were influential Los Angeles museum patrons, was led by Balthus’s Thérèse sur une banquette (1939), a racy portrait of the young Thérèse Blanchard, whom he painted 10 times—often creating masterpieces out of the muse.

The visually problematic 1939 painting showed a provocatively posed teenage girl in a short skirt. The image was out of step with today’s cultural times. Nonetheless, it sold slightly over estimate (estimation price at 12−18 million dollars) for $19 million, a new auction high for the artist.
In 2013, "Thérèse sur une Banquette" was selected for the cover of the catalogue "Cats and Girls" exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This was the last appearance of work in public, besides the last auction. The French artist’s previous auction record, set when Lady Abdy (1935) sold for $9.9 million at the Artist’s Muse sale at Christie’s in November 2015.

Pablo Picasso. La Lettre (La Réponse), (1923)

Picasso painting of his first wife Olga was originally acquired by a Texas oilman’s wife, Sadie Campbell in 1943 directly from Paul Rosenberg and has remained in her family since. Her daughter Cecil Amelia Blaffer would marry Prince Tassilo von Furstenberg and become a Houston patron of the arts as befits the granddaughter of two great Texas oil fortunes.

The Collection of H.S.H. Princess "Titi" von Fürstenberg encompasses more than 30 works ranges from Pablo Picasso to Mark Rothko and Andre Derain to Lucio Fontana. It appeared on the market for the first time as a highlight and closed out the sale with an 11-lot run, and saved the best for last: Picasso’s Le Lettre landed between its low and high estimates to go for $22 million hammer, seized by Christie’s Los Angeles Imp/mod specialist Morgan Schoonhoven. With fees, the price was $25.2 million.

Title illustration: Paul Cézanne's "Bouilloire et Fruits (Pitcher and Fruit)," (1880s). via Christie’s

Based on materials from Christie’s official site, The New York Times, Artsy.net
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