Published: December 26, 2006
Christie’s November 8 evening sale of Impressionist and Modern art realized $491,472,000, setting a new record for any auction. The prospect of acquiring masterpieces the likes of which had not been seen on the market previously generated boundless enthusiasm and bidding throughout the sale. Nine new world auction records were set, including for Klimt, Schiele, Kirchner, Gauguin and Balthus. Buyers in the sale, by lot (not value) were 39.5 percent American, 42.5 percent European, 4 percent Asian, 1.5 percent Russian, 3 percent Latin American and 9.5 percent other.
“History was made tonight,” said Christopher Burge, honorary chairman of Christie’s and the evening’s auctioneer. “Buyers from around the world gathered for an unprecedented sale of Impressionist and Modern art, which almost doubled the previous record for any auction at nearly half a billion dollars.”
The continuation of sales of Impressionist and Modern art on November 9 resulted in two more totals that beat all previous records. The works on paper sale conducted in the morning realized $13.8 million, and the Impressionist and Modern art day sale achieved $45.1 million. Highlights were Picasso’s “Dans la loge (Portrait de Jane Avril),” which fetched $1,528,000, and Lyonel Feininger’s “Silbersternbild,” which brought $2,368,000.
The results over the two days brought the total for the series of Impressionist and Modern art sales to $550,362,600 — an unprecedented figure in the history of art auctioneering.
The sale of the four Klimt paintings on November 8, recently restituted to the heirs of Adele and Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, was one of the most fervently awaited events in art market history. After exhibitions in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Neue Galerie in New York, “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II,” “Birch Forest,” “Apple Tree I” and “Houses at Unterach,” were exhibited at the Christie’s Rockefeller Galleries where more than 7,500 people visited them during the six-day viewing.
In the November 8 sale, the results achieved for all four paintings reconfirmed Klimt’s genius. “Portrait of Adele II” realized $87,936,000; “Birch Forest,” $40,336,000; “Apple Tree I,” $33,056,000; and “Unterach Houses” sold for $31,376,000. The result for “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II” smashed the previous auction record and made this work the third highest selling painting at auction.
Maria Altmann, niece of the Adele and Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, said after the sale: “My family and I are delighted to see these treasured paintings find new homes. Tonight was a very exciting evening and we are delighted and honored that so many people wanted to partake in history. We are pleased that Christie’s has so successfully helped us bring the story full circle. The restitution of these paintings was a landmark case and we are forever grateful for the support of so many talented, compassionate and committed individuals who helped us. My Aunt Adele and Uncle Ferdinand enjoyed living with these paintings and sharing them and we trust that their new owners will build on this tradition of appreciation.”
The appearance on the market of Gauguin’s “L’hômme à la hâche,” one of the first paintings the artist executed upon arrival in Tahiti, excited the collecting community in no small way. The painting had only appeared at auction once, in 1893, and was subsequently acquired by dealer Ambroise Vollard, whose life and career are currently fêted in a major exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. “L’hômme à la hâche” was bought for $40,336,000, a new world auction record for the artist.
Kirchner’s “Berliner Strassenszene,” restituted to the heirs of Alfred and Thekla Hess, is one of a series of 11 paintings the artist created of notoriously decadent Berlin right after World War I. The present painting is arguably the best in the series and offered and unique opportunity for collectors to acquire a quintessential Kirchner painting. “Berliner Strassenszene” fetched $38,096,000 and broke the previous record for the artist set at Christie’s London in February of this year. The painting was bought by the Neue Galerie in New York City.
Three works by Egon Schiele were consigned by the Neue Galerie and achieved results that emphasized the strong demand for German Expressionism in general, as well as the immense appeal of Schiele’s oeuvre. Two watercolors, “Zwei Mädchen auf einer Fransendecke” and “Kniender Halbakt nach links gebeugt,” realized $5,616,000 and $11,216,000, respectively. The magisterial painting “Einzelne Häuser (Häuser mit Bergen)” realized $22,416,000 and set a new world auction record for the artist.
Other highlights in the sale included Modigliani’s “Vénus,” $15,920,000; “Trois Personages,” by Fernand Léger, $8,976,000; Matisse’s “Nature Morte” from the Lewisohn collection, $3,600,000; Hodler’s “Thunersee mit Niesen,” $3,936,000; and two Mondrian studies for “Broadway Boogie Woogie,” $3,264,000 and $2,144,000, from the estate of Arnold Newman, which broke the world auction record for a work on paper by the artist. Works formerly in the collection of Janice Levin, sold to benefit the Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, realized $20,470,400.
Prices reported include buyer’s premium. For information, 212-636-2000 or www.Christies.com.
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