Friday, May 11, 2007

Paul Cézanne Watercolor Sells for Record $25.5 Million

Paul Cézanne Watercolor Sells for Record $25.5 Million

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Paul Cézanne, Nature morte au melon vert. © Sotheby's.

NEW YORK.- Sotheby’s spring evening sale of Impressionist and Modern Art in New York brought an outstanding total of $278,548,000, the second highest total for an auction in Sotheby’s 263-year history. The top price achieved this evening was for one of the most important watercolors by Paul Cézanne remaining in private hands, Nature morte au melon vert, which sold for $25,520,000, above the high estimate of $18 million and a record for a work on paper by the artist at auction. That price was closely followed by the record price of $23,280,000 realized by Lyonel Feininger’s spectacular Jesuiten III, the cover lot of this evening’s sale which was the subject of an intense bidding battle before selling to a round of applause (est. $7/9 million). Additional auction records were established for Marino Marini and Theo van Doesburg and for works on paper by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Giacomo Balla. The sale was over 90% sold by lot and value with 36 works selling for more than $1 million.

David Norman, a Chairman of Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Department Worldwide, said, “We are ecstatic about the results of tonight’s sale, which were second only to the all-time record for an auction at Sotheby’s achieved back in May of 1990. There is a hunger in the marketplace for great works of art, whatever the medium or period. Tonight we saw remarkable prices for works on paper with the Cézanne still-life and Rose period Picasso; an extraordinary result for the German Expressionist work by Feininger, for rare works by artists such as Balla and van Doesburg, and fierce competition for sculpture by Giacometti and Marini. There was great depth in the bidding with numerous new buyers participating in addition to many of our long-time clients. What is particularly notable is the ever-widening geographical diversity of the buying pool. ”

Highlighting this evening’s sale was Nature morte au melon vert by Paul Cézanne from the private collection of Giuseppe Eskenazi, which sold for $25,520,000, above the pre-sale estimate of $14/18 million. That price far eclipses the previous record for a work on paper by the artist at auction set by the same work at the legendary The British Rail Pension Fund sale held at Sotheby’s London in 1989.

As many as five bidders competed for a painting from the height of Lyonel Feininger’s Expressionist period, Jesuiten III, driving the final price to $23,280,000, more than double the high estimate of $9 million and a record for the artist at auction. Bidding was also fierce for Fernand Léger’s superb Les Usines, from 1918, which was sought-after by as many as six different bidders driving the final price to $14,320,000. The painting, which is a brilliant example of the artist’s fascination with the rapidly evolving urban environment, had been estimated to sell for $5/7 million.

This evening’s sale included an outstanding offering of paintings and sculpture spanning the career of Pablo Picasso – from important Rose period works to a powerful painting from 1965 that ranks among the artist’s finest Post-War canvases. Tête d'arlequin, one in a series of eight portraits of an anonymous adolescent boy (including the masterful Garçon à la pipe sold by Sotheby’s in 2004 for a record $104.2 million) sold for $15,160,000. A stunning work on paper, Famille d’arlequin, consigned by the family of renowned American collector, Joan Whitney Payson, surpassed a high estimate of $8 million to sell for $9,840,000. Another work by the artist, Les Amants from 1932, a rare dual-portrait of the artist watching his young lover Marie-Thérèse Walter as she sleeps, sold for $14,600,000.

Le Grand Cirque by Marc Chagall was also among the top lots for this evening’s sale selling for $13,760,000. One of the artist’s largest renditions of the circus theme (159.5 x 308.5 cm) and arguably one of the finest works of its kind to ever appear on the auction market, the painting had been estimated to sell for $8/12 million. Joan Miró’s extraordinary Peinture (Le Cheval de cirque), from a series of supremely abstracted depictions of a circus horse painted at the height of his involvement with the Surrealists, brought $8,440,000 (est. $8/10 million).

Among the sculpture offered this evening was Alberto Giacometti’s Homme Traversant une place par un matin soleil, the artist’s proof from an edition of six casts which brought $7,432,000. The sculpture, which five different bidders competed for, had been estimated to sell for $4/6 million. A rare, unique and monumental sculpture by Marino Marini, L’Idea del Cavaliere, sold for $7,040,000. The sculpture, a painted wood version of a work that that was originally conceived in 1955 in plaster and cast in bronze in an edition of four, was estimated at $6/8 million.

For the third time, Sotheby’s had the privilege of offering works from the Neumann Family Collection, one of the most important collections of 20th century art in private hands. Giacomo Balla’s Velocità d’automobile + luci, which belongs to a seminal group of works exploring the ultimate concepts of Futurism: dynamism, speed and light, sold for $3,960,000, a record for a work on paper by the artist at auction, and Contra-Composition VII, a rare work by Theo van Doesburg, a leading member of the De Stijl movement brought $4,184,000, a record for the artist at auction.

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