Published: July 9, 2002
This Year’s Most Expensive Work of Art Brings $23.9 Million in London
LONDON – Christie’s June evening sale of Impressionist and Modern Art achieved a total of $59,910,233.
The auction was led by an outstanding work by Pablo Picasso, “Nu au collier,” which sold for $23,919,018, the most expensive work of art to be sold at auction globally in 2002.
The evening sale was part of the June 2002 London series of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century art sales that totaled $94,651,309. The Postwar and Contemporary Art Evening Sale realized $13,364,809.
Buyer activity in the sale of Impressionist and Modern Art was 68 percent from the UK and Europe, 32 percent from the Americas, with significant underbidding form Asia. The sale was 74 percent sold by lot and 83 percent sold by value; 97 percent of works sold within or above their presale estimates.
“Nu au collier” depicts Picasso’s favorite muse, Marie-Thérèse Walter. Painted in 1932, it dates from the apogee of their relationship when Picasso and Walter had retreated to Boisgeloup, the chateau Picasso had bought as a hideaway for the couple.
It was here that Picasso painted a series of celebrated portraits of his young lover. In the present work Picasso has exaggerated the curves of Walter’s voluptuous figure to produce an exuberant image of femininity and fertility that fully translates his own love and desire.
The sale also included works from the Pierina de Gavardie Collection, which collectively sold for £4,182,550. Pierina de Gavardie was born in Italy but moved to Paris in the 1930s to work with her uncle who was a tailor. Among her uncle’s clients were many of the most influential artists and dealers of the Parisian art world and slowly she found herself dealing in her own right before coming to work with Heinz Berggruen in the 1950s.
Highlights of the collection included two works by Picasso, “Le Peintre,” which sold for £974,650 and “Femme au chapeau,” which realized £578,650. Albert Gleizes’ vibrant “Brooklyn Bridge” sold for £534,650, a world record at auction for the artist, while Joan Miros’ “Peinture” realized £468,650 and Fernand Léger’s “Les quatre personnages (2éme esquisse)” sold for £622,650. Further works from the collection were sold at Christie’s throughout the rest of the week.
A work by Claude Monet, “Vétheuil,” painted in 1880, sold for £5,066,650. This work, which has not been seen in public for more than 60 years, signifies a turning point in Monet’s career. The artist’s three-year stay in the town of Vétheuil marked the removal of urban subjects from his repertoire, enabling him to focus upon the landscape and the natural world. He never painted Paris again.
A further work by Monet, “Le pont japonais,” sold for £1,326,650. The panting was sold on behalf of The Saint Francis of Assisi Foundation, a worldwide charitable foundation that funds projects to assist the fight against poverty and disease, the fund had received the work as a gift from a private collector.
This follows the sale of three works, from the same bequest, in the London February 2002 evening sale, which raised a total £11,011,250. The entire proceeds from “Le pont japonais” will go to the many worthy projects set up by the foundation in such countries as Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Brazil.
The sale also featured a number of further outstanding works by Picasso, including “Femme au turban,” sold for £534,650, a portrait of Picasso’s “forgotten” muse Sara Murphy. Murphy not only inspired Picasso but also the author F. Scott Fitzgerald, who based the main protagonists from Tender is the Night, Dick and Nicole Diver, on Sara Murphy and her husband, Gerald.
Record prices were also established in the sale for Emil Nolde, whose painting of 1922, “Blumengarten,” sold for £2,151,650.
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