Sun, Nov 09, 2014 - Page 12 News List

Manet painting sold for record price at Christie’s

Art industry professionals say the art market remains strong because the expansion of private wealth has boosted the number of collectors

By James Tarmy  /  Bloomberg, New York

A woman walks between Triple Elvis and Four Marlons by Andy Warhol during a media preview at Christie’s auction house in New York last month. Christie’s estimates its postwar and contemporary art auction will total more than US$600 million, the highest pre-sale estimate ever for any single sale.

Photo: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

A $65.1 million Edouard Manet painting of a woman with a parasol set an auction record for the artist and led Christie’s US$166 million sale in New York.

Wednesday’s tally exceeded the $144.3 million total from last year’s Impressionist and modern art sale and surpassed the New York-based auction house’s high estimate of US$158 million. Of the 39 lots offered, 35 found buyers.

Christie’s result comes a day after Sotheby’s record US$422 million sale and the fall auction season gets into full swing in Manhattan. Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips next week will conduct auctions of postwar and contemporary art.

Dealers and advisers said the art market may remain strong because the expansion of private wealth has boosted the number of collectors. A robust stock market also may help fuel prices, they said. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index closed yesterday at an all-time high of 2,023.57 in New York, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached a record 17,484.53.

“There are very exceptional works on sale,” said Jude Hess, an art adviser based in London who bought paintings by Georges Braque and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. “There’s a lot of collectors from Asia, and Russians are still buying, so it’s a healthy market.”

MANET RECORD

A flurry of bidders, both in the salesroom and on the phone, thrust Manet’s 1881 Le Printemps past its US$25 million to US$35 million estimate, selling for US$65.1 million and setting an auction record for the artist. Manet’S previous record was in 2010, when hedge fund manager Steven A. Cohen sold Self Portrait With a Palette for US$33.2 million at Christie’s in London.

Last night’s Manet was bought by New York dealer Otto Naumann on behalf of the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Los Angeles-based museum said today. The New York Times first reported the Getty was the buyer.

“Spring was the last of Manet’s salon paintings still in private hands, and universally recognized as one of his great masterpieces,” Timothy Potts, director of the Getty, said in a statement. “I have no doubt that it will soon become one of the most iconic images in the Getty’s painting collection.”

WATERCOLOR, PASTEL

The Getty said it owns two Manet paintings, Portrait of Madame Brunet and The Rue Mosnier with Flags, as well as the watercolor Bullfight and the pastel Portrait of Julien de la Rochenoire.

The runner-up for the Manet was Acquavella Galleries, which competed by phone. Le Printemps had been in the same private collection for more than a century and had been on loan to the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

In perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening, Fernand Leger’s Les Constructeurs Avec Arbre, which depicts four construction workers perched atop a building, failed to find a bidder.

“I can wait all night,” said auctioneer Andreas Rumbler, chairman, Christie’s Switzerland, as the crowd sat in silence. After repeatedly asking for starting bids of US$15.5 million, Rumbler moved on.

The Leger had a presale estimate of US$16 million to US$22 million. The work was exhibited in 1998 at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas by its then-owner, billionaire casino magnate Steve Wynn, according to Christie’s.

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