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Claude Monet
Vétheuil, effet de soleil
$5,458,500 (with premium)
Christie’s New York
Nov. 3, 2009
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by Stewart Waltzer

Is underwhelming acceptable usage in the Chicago Manual of Style? If so, one might use it cruelly to describe Christie’s 40-lot evening sale on Nov. 2, 2009. It didn’t have a lot of lots. Impressionist material is scarcer in a static market where no one wants to sell, and auction houses are not inclined to buy. A lot of Christie’s material had appeared in recent auctions, and few works, here or at Sotheby’s on Nov. 3, are exciting at the level that we’ve become accustomed to in the past few years. Still, brevity has its attractions. Tonight’s sale had a few pretty lots and auctioneer Christopher Burge maximized their value, if not with customary legerdemain then with dogged tenacity.