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Edgar Degas, 
Petite Danseuse 
de Quatorze Ans.
$11.8 million.

 Petite Danseuse, 

The Electra 
Havemeyer Webb 
Building at the 
Shelburne Museum.

Edouard Manet, 
Portrait of 
Suzette Lemaire 
in Profile.
$2.9 million. 

Edouard Manet, 
Portrait de 
Constantin Guys.
$1.65 million.

Edgar Degas, Yellow 
$8.69 million. 

Paul Cezanne, La 
Cote du Galet, a 
$11.02 million.

Piet Mondrian, 
$5.5 million.

Claude Monet, Garden 
of the Artist at 
$13.2 million.

Claude Monet, 
$13.2 million.

Edgar Degas, 
After the Bath.
$7.26 million.

Pablo Picasso, 
$3.2 million.

to market, 
to market: 
fall sales in 
new york
by Judd Tully
Sotheby's kicked off the fall auction 
season on the evening of Nov. 12 with a 
decent total of $92.5 million sold but a 
less impressive buy-in rate of 35 percent 
(the total presale estimate for the 68 works 
was pegged at $100.6 million-$132.1 
million). Twenty-four lots failed to find 
buyers. The big news, though, was the 
controversial deaccession by the Shelburne 
Museum (located in Shelburne, Vermont) of 
five rare Impressionist works given to the 
museum by the famed Havemeyer family 
(Electra Havemeyer Webb, to be precise). 
Those wonderful works, that accounted for 
$31.2 million of the auction tally, 
included two portraits by Edouard Manet, 
two dance pastels by Edgar Degas and a 
single bronze Degas sculpture of a 14-year-
old ballet student. Sotheby's gave the 
museum a secret guarantee that assured the 
Shelburne a minimum price (somewhere over 
$20 million) no matter what the outcome. It 
turned out to be a profitable risk-taking. 
The Shelburne will use the funds to form an 
endowment for the upkeep of its collection, 
which focuses largely on Americana.
Most of the buyers were anonymous except 
for publicity-seeking magnates such as 
Stephen Wynn, c.e.o. of Mirage Resorts, 
Inc., who bought the Manet Portrait of 
Mademoiselle Suzette Lemaire in Profile 
(from the Shelburne) for a new casino 
palace in Las Vegas. That's quite a fall 
from grace for the Manet pastel, even 
though it went for $2.9 million (est. $1.5 
million-$2 million) and set the record for 
Manet drawing at auction. World-class 
dealer William Acquavella did the bidding 
for Wynn (who also has excellent taste in 
dealers). The Havemeyers, who made their 
family fortune in sugar refining, were also 
spectacular art patrons who enriched the 
Metropolitan Museum with untold treasures. 
The Shelburne deaccession story is one of 
the more pathetic in recent museum history, 
though the shelburne now declares, with 
$30-odd million in its coffers, "we rest 
secure in the knowledge that we are able 
to protect the collections for future 
generations." Amen.
The Degas from Shelburne, one of some 26 
bronze casts made posthumously from the 
waxes left behind in the artist's studio, 
set a record for Degas sculpture at a hefty 
$11.8 million (unpublished estimate in the 
$10 million range) and beat the old mark of 
$10.17 million set at Christie's New York 
in Nov. 1988 when the great Goetz 
collection was sold. London dealer Desmond 
Corcoran was one of the outgunned 
A record for Degas drawing at auction was 
also set with the magnificent Yellow Dancer 
from Shelburne that hit $8.69 million (est. 
$7 million- $9 million) and sold to an 
anonymous telephone bidder, beating out 
private art dealer Barbara Guggenheim.
Outside of the Shelburne trove, La Cote Du 
Galet, a Pontoise (1879-81), a stunning, 
sun-dappled Cezanne landscape of country 
cottages and a narrow road lined with tall 
poplars fetched $11.02 million (unpublished 
est. $7 million-9 million). It bettered the 
price of $9.24 million set in May 1988 at 
Sotheby's New York when Tokyo super-dealer 
Kazuo Fujii of the Fujii Gallery snared the 
picture. Fujii, the former president of the 
Tokyo Art Dealers Association, fell on hard 
times, so hard in fact that he was sentenced 
in 1995 to two years in jail for tax evasion 
and fabricating art sales during the great 
`80s art boom. The art market takes all 
The bad news at Sotheby's was the syrupy, 
slow-motion style of auctioneer Simon du 
Pury, chairman of Sotheby's Europe, who 
made the evening longer and duller than 
necessary. That and the over-estimated 
bundle of mediocre works hurt the house's 
potential to look better than Christie's. 
It didn't. So-so works by Monet, Vuillard, 
Matisse, Braque, von Dongen, Magritte, 
Giacometti, Miro, Leger, Picasso and 
Delvaux expired in large part because of 
their over-ambitious reserves. The market 
remains highly selective and soft at the 
lower reaches yet ready to pay big bucks 
for high-quality trophy works. That was 
best demonstrated by Composition (1939-42), 
a first-rate Mondrian that brought $5.5 
million (est. $5 million-$7 million). Museum 
legend James Johnson Sweeney had been the 
first buyer of the grid-lined abstraction 
back in 1942, from the artist's first New 
York show at the Valentine Dudensing 
It was a different picture at Christie's 24 
hours later. The #2 auction house profited 
from the disappointing results the night 
before at Sotheby's and had just enough 
time to scare its consignors into lowering 
their minimums. It made the house's $82.3 
million tally look so much brighter with a 
svelte 20-percent buy-in rate. 
Obviously, quality helps and to wow the 
crowds Christie's had two brilliant Monets 
from the Engelhard family (Charles W. 
Engelhard, the late precious metals 
magnate, was a pal of Ian Fleming and the 
model for the spymaster's "Goldfinger"). 
The Engelhard trove of six pictures brought 
$30.9 million.
Auctioneer Christopher Burge performed 
masterfully at the podium and showed what 
that old profession is all about. In a kind 
of amazing replay from the late 1980s, a 
mystery telephone bidder made a spectacular 
pre-emptive bid over Monet's 1881 painting, 
Garden of the Artist at Vetheuil. Dealer 
Richard Feigen bid at $11.2 million and 
instead of the usual $100,000 or $200,00 
bid increment, the competing telephone 
bidder jumped to $12 million. The contest 
was over.
The same technique was used by the Monet 
buyer two lots later when Monet's 
Waterlilies (c. 1905) reached $11.2 
million. Half-joking, it seemed, Burge 
asked the mystery person on the phone, 
which was held by Christie's expert Michael 
Findlay, "will you give me $12 million?" He 
did. And the room went crazy. Both Monets 
(with buyer's premium) made $13.2 million, 
the third highest price for the artist at 
auction. They also carried unpublished 
estimates that changed day-by-day, and 
ranged from $7 million to $12 million.
Degas proved his mettle again with After 
the Bath, which made a robust $7.26 million 
(est. $4 million-$6 million), going to 
American painting dealer Warren Adelson, 
who bid on behalf of a private client, 
glued to one another by cellular phone. 
Casino-man Wynn was the underbidder.
Christie's also experienced rough patches 
and had its fair share of mediocre 
offerings but it only failed to sell 12 of 
the 66 lots. Those statistics are hard to 
Buyer-wise, Wynn was busy again, loading up 
a choice inventory for his new casino. 
Seated next to his advisor Acquavella, he 
nabbed Picasso's 1906 landscape, Gosol, for 
$3.4 million (est. $3.5 million-$4.5 million).
Combined with the Part II day sales, both 
houses realized $210 million for the week.
JUDD TULLY covers the international art 
market for a variety of publications, 
ranging from  Art & Auction  to  The 
Washington Post.