the fall of 1999, Christie's offered a lovely waterlily painting
by Claude Monet (1840-1926) with an estimate on request of about
$15,000,000 and upped the estimate to $17,000,000 to $18,000,000
just before the auction. It sold to a "European trade"
buyer for $22,552,500 including the buyer's premium.
Sotheby's now has the same picture back as the star of its evening
Impressionist & Modern Art auction November 5, 2002 and it
carries an estimate of $16,000,000 to $20,000,000. Lot 12, it
is entitled "Nymphéas," and is an oil on canvas
that measures 35 1/4 by 36 1/2 inches and was executed in 1906.
Given that the headline on an October 31, 2002 article by Carol
Vogel in The New York Times carried the headline "Art
and Anxiety Meet as Fall Auctions Arrive" and that the cover
article of the December 2002 edition of Art & Auction
magazine is entitled "The Big New York Sales, Will There
be Smiles - Or Will There be Tears?" it is not too surprising
that Sotheby's experts have given this work a relatively non-inflationary
estimate, especially since it was on the auction block fairly
As far as
Monet's waterlily works go, this is a pretty smashing painting
and given the fact that many "art experts" have been
arguing that the market remains very strong for the "highest
quality" works, it should not be too surprising, however,
if this lot exceeds its estimate. It sold for $18,709,500 including
the buyer's premium as do all results in this article.
Sotheby's has had some bad press since the spring season as its
principal owner, Alfred Taubman began a prison term in August
and reports have circulated in the press that it has been offered
for sale. In addition, Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg is back
with an Impressionist and Modern Art auction the night before
this auction after having foregone its Impressionist & Modern
Art auction last spring. While its offerings this season are small
in quantity, it does have a few superb works (see The City
and Christie's, which has its sale tomorrow night, has the best
group of works on the block this go-round (see The City Review article).
The poor state of the economy has generated a fair bit of nervousness
in the market, but most observers feel that the highest quality
works will still fare well although lesser quality works are likely
to result in a high number of "buy-ins."
sentiment has severely shaken, however, by the extremely weak
Impressionist & Modern Art auction Nov. 4, 2002 at Phillips
de Pury & Luxembourg at which most of the top lots failed
to sell. This Sotheby's auction, however, was relatively very
successful with 68.18 percent of the 66 offered lots selling,
although that is still a low percentage by traditional evening
auction norms. This auction's sale total was $81,453,500 and the
presale low estimate had been $101,300,000 and the presale high
estimate had been $141,900,000.
are very pleased. It was a very solid sale," declared David
C. Norman, co-chairman of the Impressionist & Modern Art department,
after the sale. "Quality rules," maintained Charles
S. Moffett, co-chairman of the same department. "We have
a very good market....It shows that a great team...makes a difference,"
declared Tobias Meyer, the auctioneer.
they and most of the art market breathed a giant sigh of relief
that the sale was not a repeat of the auction at Phillips where
less than 45 percent of the lots were sold.
There are several other Monet paintings in this auction. Lot 5
former is entitled "Vetheuil, les pruniers en fleurs"
and it is an oil on canvas of flower pickers that measures 29
1/4 by 36 5/8 inches. Executed in 1879, it has an estimate of
$2,500,000 to $3,500,000 and was once in the collection of Mrs.
Potter Palmer of Chicago. It was passed at $2,000,000.
Lot 7 is entitled "Au bord du Fjord de Chrstiania" and
is an oil on canvas of a winter scene that measures 25 1/2 by
36 inches. Executed in 1895, it has an estimate of $1,200,000
to $1,600,000. It sold for $1,219,500. Lot 10 is entitled
"Fleurs dans un pot (Roses et Brouillard)" and measures
32 5/8 by 25 1/2 inches. Dated 1878, it has an estimate of $3,000,000
to $4,000,000 and has been consigned by the estate of Ogden Phipps.
It sold for $3,089,500. Lot 17, "Soleil Couchant,
Temps Brumeux, Pourville," measures 24 3/8 by 29 1/2 inches.
Dated 1882, this pleasant sunset marine scene has an estimate
of only $600,000 to $800,000. It sold for $614,500.
illustration of the catalogue is Lot 19, "Nature Morte, Serviette
a Carreaux," by Henri Matisse (1869-1954). An oil on canvas
that measures 20 5/8 by 21 1/2 inches, it was painted circa 1903
and is highlighted by a vibrantly colored red-and-white-checked
tablecloth and is of more than normal still-life interest because
the artist has painted a self-portrait of himself in the mirror
behind the table. While this work harkens to many still life paintings
by Cézanne, albeit without self-portraits and it atypical
of Matisse's mature style, it is a strong work and has an estimate
of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000. It sold for $4,849,500.
(1848-1903) is represented in this auction by a fresco of Joan
of Arc that he painted in 1899 for Marie Henry's seaside inn at
Le Pouldu in Brittany. Gauguin and fellow artists Meyer de Haan
and Paul Sérusier, according to the catalogue, made dozens
of ceramic works, woodcarvings, and sculptures, and covered the
walls of the inn with drawings and paintings, including the present
work, which was part of a mural in the dining room." Gauguin
left for Tahiti the next year and left his paintings and drawings
with Mme Henry as collateral for his unpaid bill and after the
inn was sold the frescos were covered with wallpaper until 1924
until Abraham Rattner, the painter, discovered them and purchased
them. This lot has a modest estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000.
It was passed at $650,000.
The second highest estimate of this auction is $10,000,000 to
$15,000,000 for Lot 20, "Femme nue debout," by Paul
Cézanne (1939-1906). This oil on canvas of a naked standing
woman measures 36 1/2 by 28 inches and was painted in 1898-9 and
was once in the collection of Auguste Pellerin. The catalogue
entry maintains that this painting is "a wonderfully powerful
evocation of the female nude" and that "the rich browns,
ochres, yellows and flesh-pinks of the composition are beautifully
modulated, and Cézanne's facture here is at its
most refined." Continuing, the catalogue also maintained
that "perhaps Cézanne's most precocious accomplishment
is the angular modeling and stylization of this figure, as this
kind of daring treatment would have a profound influence on Picasso
when he painting his Les Demoiselles d'Avignon."
Nonetheless, one wonders if the rather dark palette will be of
sufficient interest to collectors more accustomed to the artist's
normally brighter palette. It failed to sell and was passed
at $9,000,000. After the sale, Mr. Moffat described the work as
"exceptional" and said he was puzzled at its failure
they may prefer to focus on Lot 34, a luminous work by Joan Miró,
entitled "L'Oiseau boum-boum fait sa priere a la tete pelure
d'oignon." An oil on canvas that measures 31 3/4 by 39 3/8
inches, it was executed in 1952 and has an estimate of $2,500,000
to $3,500,000. It sold for $2,154,500.
may simply be more satisfied with a more traditional Cézanne
landscape, Lot 8, "Le Potager de Pissaro a Pontoise,"
an oil on canvas that measures 19 3/4 by 23 5/8 inches. Painted
in 1877, it has a modest estimate of $2,000,000 to $2,500,000.
It sold for $1,989,500.
This auction has several good sculptures.
illustration of the catalogue is Lot 32, "Le Roi Jouant Avec
La Reine," a great bronze sculpture by Max Ernst (1891-1976)
that is 39 3/4 inches high. Conceived in 1944 and executed in
an edition of nine in 1954, it is one of the 20th Century's finest
modern scultpures and has an estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000.
Noting that Ernst, like many Surrealists, was an ardent chess
player, the catalogue observes in this work "the powerful
figure of the king seems to be enacting a ritual of earth shattering
importance as he protects the queen with his right hand and hides
another piece behind his back. The original plaster cast for this
work was originally in the collection of Robert Motherwell, the
artist, and is now in the collection of Fondation Beyeler, Riehen.
It sold for $2,429,500, an auction record for Ernst.
"Figurine dans une boite entre deux boites qui son des maisons,"
is a fine bronze and glass sculpture by Alberto Giacometti (1902-1966).
The 1950 work is 21 3/8 inches long and has an estimate of $2,000,000
to $3,000,000. It is number 2/6. It has been consigned by the
estate of Stanley Marcus. It sold for $2,099,500.
Newton de Gala," is a monumental bronze sculpture by Salvador
Dalí (1904-1989). The 12-foot-seven-inch-high statue "relates
to an important painting that Dali completed in 19322 entitled
Phosphen de Laporte in which the figure of Newton appears
in the lower half of the canvas," the catalogue noted, adding
that the artist executed the first plaster cast of this figure
in 1969 and cast this larger version 1985 in an edition of eight
plus four artist's proofs. "Dalí presents Newton as
a symbolic figure, identifiable only by his plumb-line rather
than by any physiological characteristics," it maintained.
The impressive lot has an estimate of $400,000 to $500,000. It
sold for $449,500.
One of the
most beautiful works in the auction is Lot 4, "Voiliers sur
L'Escault," by Theo van Rysselberghe (1862-1926).
An oil on
canvas with painted liner that measures 26 3/4 by 35 1/2 inches,
it was executed in 1892 and has an estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000.
It is an outstanding Neo-Impressionist painting and was in the
collection of Arthur Altschul, the investment banker. It sold
for $2,649,500, an auction record for the artist.
Altschul consignment is Lot 3, "Notre Dame," by Maximilien
Luce (1858-1941). This 34-by-31 3/4-inch oil on canvas has an
estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It sold for $614,500.
fine lot is Lot 1, "Portrait d'Edmond Maitre (Le Liseur),"
by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919). This very lovely oil measures
8 3/4 by 11 3/8 inches and has a conservative estimate of $700,000
to $900,000. It sold for $1,219,500.
"Schangen-Toterin," is a fine, oil, watercolor, pen
and pencil on paper mounted on colored paper and laid down on
the artist's mount by Paul Klee (1840-1926). It measures 16 by
9 1/2 inches, and was executed in 1923. It has an estimate of
$700,000 to $900,000. It sold for $889,500.
"La Belle Captive," is a good oil on canvas, 21 by 26
inches by Rene Magritte (1898-1967. The 1947 work has a modest
estimate given recent auction records for Magritte of $600,000
to $800,000. It sold for $889,500.
Lot 42, "Odalisque a la mandoline," is a 88 1/2-by-90
1/2-inch oil on canvas by Balthus (1908-2001) that depicts a naked
young woman in bed. Painted in 1998-9, it has an estimate of $2,000,000
to $3,000,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $1,000,000.
Sotheby's printed a separate catalogue for 12 works from the collection
of Robert Guccione, the publisher of Penthouse magazine, which
will be put on the block at the end of the sale.
The Guccione offerings are highlighted by a fine portrait by Amedeo
Modigliani (1884-1920) and a sweet portrait of the artist's son,
Paulo, by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973).
dai capelli rossi," Lot 59, is a superb oil on canvas by
Amedeo Modigliani that measures 39 5/8 by 24 5/8 inches. Executed
in 1919, it has a conservative estimate of $6,000,000 to $8,000,000.
It sold for $8,479,500. It had been withdrawn from Sotheby's
Impressionist and Modern Art auction a year ago when it had an
estimate of $5,000,000 to $7,000,000. Mr. Guccione bought the
painting at Sotheby's in 1984 for about $1,900,000.
portrait of his son Paulo as a clown, Lot 61, shown above, is
a lovely oil on canvas that measures 13 3/4 by 10 5/8 inches.
Exected in 1924, it has a conservative estimate of $2,000,000
to $3,000,000. It sold for $2,209,500.