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Art Market Watch
5/9/02


$126 MILLION AT SOTHEBY'S
The auction of Impressionist and modern art at Sotheby's New York on the evening of May 8, 2002, totaled $126,020,500, in the middle of the $107.8 million-$147.9 million presale estimate. Of the 55 lots offered, 52 found buyers, for a 94.5 percent sold rate -- numbers that are helped by the fact that Sotheby's sold groups of works from three estates, which presumably would have carried global reserves. In an unusual move, the sales were partly financed by two major Manhattan dealers, William Acquavella and Robert Mnuchin.

"We were absolutely thrilled," said Sotheby's Impressionist expert David Norman after the sale. "Three buy-ins out of 55, and we hope that within 24 hours there will be fewer than that." Despite the optimistic results, the overflow crowd in Sotheby's huge seventh-floor salesroom was quiet, never breaking into applause.

Top lot was Paul Cézanne's still life, Pichet et Assiette de Poires (1890-93), which sold for $16,784,500 (est. $14,000,000-$18,000,000). It was the fourth version of the series to sell at auction; the buyer was art dealer (and former Christie's expert) Nancy Whyte, on the cell phone to a client. Edgar Degas' elegant pastel, Au Musée du Louvre (Miss Cassatt) (ca. 1879), sold for $16,509,500 (est. $12,000,000-$18,000,000). Alberto Giacometti's Grande tête de Diego (1954) went for $13,759,500 (est. $5,000,000-$7,000,000). The work was originally acquired from Sidney Janis Gallery in 1956 for $5,000.

Two major records were set at the auction. A Cubist still life by Juan Gris, Le Pot de Géranium (1915), sold for $8,479,500 (est. $6,000,000-$8,000,000), a record for the artist. And Tamara de Lempicka's La Musicienne (1929) sold for $2,649,500 (est. $1,000,000-$1,500,000), surpassing her previous auction record of $1,982,500.

Joan Miro's amusing Surrealist portrait, Tête de Paysan Catalan (1924-25), sold for $5,729,500 (est. $5,000,000-$7,000,000). Piet Mondrian's small Composition in Red and Black (1936) went for $5,289,500 (est. $3,500,000-$4,500,000). Henri Matisse's jewel-like cut-paper collage, Verve IV (ca. 1943), sold for $3,969,500 (est. $3,000,000-$4,000,000).

All five paintings by Max Beckmann found buyers. Women in Bed (ca. 1932) got the best price, selling for $1,439,500 (est. $700,000-$900,000).

It was a bad evening for nonprofits, however, as two lots offered by tax-exempt organizations went unsold. Claude Monet's Le repos dans le jardin, Argenteuil (1876), offered at auction by the Metropolitan Museum to settle an ownership dispute, was bought in (est. $3,500,000-$4,500,000). And Beckmann's 1936 bronze Self-Portrait (cast in 1968), offered by the Robert Gore Rifkind Foundation, failed to find a buyer (est. $500,000-$700,000).

The third buy-in was Paul Gauguin's lush Tahitian scene, Two Women by the Palms (1891) (est. $15,000,000-$20,000,000). Perhaps potential buyers were put off by two thin horizontal lines that cross the center of the picture, presumably representing mist but looking like scratches to some observers. The painting is from the collection of Argentine businesswoman and art collector Amalia Fortabat, who is reported to be selling because of financial reverses. She also sold the Cassatt and the Miro.

Three of the lesser-priced prizes of the sale were Pierre Bonnard's sensuous Nu sur fond bleu (ca. 1914-16), which sold for $889,500; Andre Derain's Fauve Still Life (ca. 1904), which went for $477,000; and Paul Serusier's La ferme jaune au Pouldu (1890), a historic picture of the inn where the Nabis painter stayed with Gauguin, which sold for $427,500.

For complete, illustrated results of this week's art auctions, see Artnet's unique Fine Art Auctions Report.

ART CHICAGO 2002
It's a crowded schedule this week for art devotees, as they dash from the auctions in New York to the art fairs and back to the auctions again. One stop for the contemporary-art crowd is Art Chicago 2002, unfurling May 8-13 at Navy Pier's Festival Hall. Over 200 galleries are on hand with works by over 3,000 artists. Though battered by competition from the New York Armory Show and the new Art Basel Miami Beach, Art Chicago is still the gateway to the American Midwest. The New York contingent is especially strong, including George Adams, Cohan Leslie and Browne, James Cohan, Charles Cowles, D'Amelio Terras, Dee/Glasoe, Richard Gray, Hirschl & Adler, Nancy Hoffman, Maccarone, Kathryn Markel, Edward Tyler Nahem, Annina Nosei, O.K. Harris, P.P.O.W., The Project, Jack Shainman, Susan Sheehan, Brent Sikkema and Suite 106, with Bellwether and Roebling Hall joining from Brooklyn. Local galleries on hand at the fair include Robert Henry Adams, Bodybuilder & Sportsman, Carl Hammer, Rhona Hoffman, Klein Art Works, Alan Koppel, Monique Meloche, Perimeter, Vedanta, Donald Young and Zolla/Lieberman. General admission is $12.

INTERNATIONAL FINE ART FAIR IN NEW YORK
While the contemporary art scene looks to Chicago, fans of everything from the Renaissance to modern masters are flocking to the International Fine Art Fair at the Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue at 67th Street, May 10-15, 2002. An annual event for the past nine years, the fair includes a gala opening night preview that benefits Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, a social service agency on Manhattan's East Side, and a special exhibition of medieval art from the Duke University Museum of Art. The fair is especially strong in paintings -- Agnew's brings a tiny oil sketch by Fragonard, Galerie Cazeau-Beraudiere a 1915 Modigliani portrait, Richard Greene a ca. 1877 Degas Danseuse pastel, MacConnal-Mason a John Emms painting of five spaniels, Moretti an early Renaissance Christ the Redeemer, Gerald Peters a Florine Stettheimer bouquet. General admission is $15.

BRANCUSI SELLS FOR RECORD $18 MILLION
The Impressionist and modern art auction at Christie's New York on May 7, 2002, totaled $97.6 million, with buyers nabbing 33 of the 46 works offered, or 72 percent by lot. "The season got off to a spectacular start," said auctioneer Christopher Burge, perhaps a tad too optimistically. "I certainly had a lovely time selling not quite $100 million." In all, 17 lots went for over $1 million, an impressive statistic considering that many observers considered the mixed-owner sale a fairly lackluster one.

Top lot was Constantin Brancusi's small, gilded Danaïde (ca. 1913), which sold for $18,159,500 (est. $8,000,000-$10,000,000), a new auction record for Brancusi -- and for any sculpture. "It must have been the eyebrows," joked dealer Robert Pincus-Witten. The second highest price was also drawn for a sculpture, when Alberto Giacometti's painted bronze figure group, La forêt (1950), sold for $13,209,500 (est. $7,000,000-$9,000,000). Prices include the new buyer's premium, 19.5 percent of the first $100,000 and 10 percent of the remainder.

A world auction record was also set for Rene Magritte, when his The Dominion of Light (1952) sold for $12,659,500 (est. $5,000,000-$7,000,000). The painting is the fourth version of the famous image of a daytime sky combined with a nocturnal landscape, a subject the artist treated 17 times. Gustave Caillebotte's Un soldat (ca. 1891) sold for $6,389,500 (est. $2,500,000-$3,500,000), the second highest price for the artist at auction.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's large ballerina painting, Danseuse (1895-96) sold for $3,419,500, below its presale estimate of $4,000,000-$6,000,000. Pablo Picasso's 1901 painting of a handful of women at the racetrack, Les courses, sold for $4,629,500, just at its low estimate of $4,500,000. The blue-toned Head of a Woman from 1903, which went unsold in Paris last year, did better in New York, selling for $1,659,500, well above its high presale estimate of $1,200,000.

Among the unsold works were four of the six paintings by Paul Klee, which carried presale estimates ranging from $120,000 to $1,600,000. The auctioneers were unfazed. "We already have post-sale interest in three of the unsold Klees," said Christie's Impressionist specialist Christophe Eykyn at the post-sale press conference. The top Klee in the auction, Bescheidene Heimat (1928), a kind of "scratchboard" drawing of a woman by a group of buildings on a hill, sold for $2,209,500 (est. $1,400,000-$1,800,000).

For complete, illustrated results of the evening sale at Christie's, see Artnet's unique "hot auctions" Fine Art Auctions Report.



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