Sotheby’s opened Impressionist and Modern Art Sales week in New York on Tuesday. The sale totaled $170.5 million, against a pre-sale estimate of $159 million to $230 million. Of the 59 works on offer 15, or 25 percent went unsold.
Star of the evening was Picasso’s Femmes Lisant (Deux Personnages), a 1934 image of the artist’s mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter reading with her sister. It brought the evening’s highest price — $19 million, or $21.3 million including Sotheby’s fees. (Final prices include the buyer’s commission to Sotheby’s: 25 percent of the first $50,000; 20 percent of the next $950,000; and 12 percent of the rest. Estimates do not reflect commissions.) The canvas is among the most monumental of the iconic series of pictures depicting the young woman, and was last on the market in 1981.
Three paintings by Picasso from the Collection of Dodie Rosekrans also highlighted the group: the monumental Couple à la guitare from 1970 brought $9,602,500; Femme, from a small series of Surrealist works known as the “Bone” pictures, achieved $7,922,500 after a heated competition and exceeded its pre-sale high estimate of $5 million and Fillette aux nattes et au chapeau vert, a tender depiction of the artist’s daughter Paloma, also exceeded its high estimate in selling for $5,906,500.
A rare wooden bust by Paul Gauguin sold for $11.2 million, setting a record for a sculpture by the French artist. Jeune tahitienne was carved during Gauguin’s first trip to Tahiti between 1890 and 1893, and is the only fully-worked bust portrait the artist is known to have created.
Another record was achieved by Paul Delvaux, whose Les Cariatides sold for $9 million following intense bidding, nearly double the pre-sale high estimate. Delvaux’s previous record was set in 1999 when his Le Miroir fetched $5.2 million at Christie’s London.
David Norman, co-chair of Impressionist and modern art, said the sale indicated we need to try to keep the estimates as appealing and as based on recent precedence as we can. He said the sale was marked by strong Russian and U.S. bidding, despite the weakness of the American dollar.
Sotheby’s officials said they were pleased with the result, especially given the difficulty of assembling the sale in a market in which collectors are increasingly opting to hold onto top works as prices rise. The auctions continue on Wednesday with Christie’s sale of Impressionist and modern art.