THERE was a collective sigh of relief in the New York salerooms last week when, after a long period of uncertainty following the war in Iraq and turmoil in the stockmarkets, both Sotheby’s and Christie’s held impressive Part I Impressionist and Modern sales. Any fears that anti-French feeling would spill over in the salerooms proved unfounded after French artists took the top honours at both houses.
On May 6 Sotheby’s took a premium-inclusive $65.6m (£43.7m) over 39 lots of which 11 were unsold. The sale may have been smaller than this time last year but the results were just as impressive, with the top honours going to Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Dans les Roses (Portrait de Madame Léon Clapisson) which took $21m (£14m) from Steve Wynn, the art collector and casino owner, and will go on display as soon as possible at The Wynn Collection in Las Vegas.
Three works by Edgar Degas and Renoir were sold by The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to benefit acquisition funds and brought a total of $16.3m (£10.8m). Chief among these was Degas’s Danseuse which took $9.5m (£6.3m) from a private collector. This was followed by Danseuses près d’un portrait, also by Degas, at $3.5m (£2.3m) and Renoir’s Gabrielle et Coco jouant aux dominos at $1.5m (£1m). The sale, which Sotheby’s co-chairman David Norman believed showed a “vigorous and healthy market”, also saw the auction house claim new records for Max Lieberman, Paul Seruiser, Alexander Archipenko and André Masson.
Steve Wynn was busy again the following evening at Christie’s, taking a rare Paul Cezanne self portrait that had not been on public view for more than 65 years at $15.5m (£10.3m). This was the undisputed highlight of the 31-lot sale from which 25 found buyers to take a premium-inclusive $59.7m (£39.8m). Aggressive bidding saw 11 pictures take over $1m. These included Degas’s Petite danseuse de quatorze ans which took $9.2m (£6.1m) from the New York and Chicago-based Richard Gray Gallery and Piet Mondrian’s Composition in White, Blue and Yellow, the only significant work to be offered by the Dutch artist at auction in more than ten years, brought $7.2m (£4.8m) from an anonymous buyer.
Exchange rate: £1 = $1.5