Top of the list was the multi-talented Koloman Moser (1868-1918). Having worked as a designer for the Wiener Werkstätte until 1907, he subsequently devoted himself exclusively to painting and in 10 years he created more than 200 documented works.
From 1909 his central theme was still-lifes and scenes from the garden of his Viennese home. Schwertlilien (Irises), a 2ft 6in (76cm) square oil painting, was begun in 1911 but not completed until 1914. It is considered to be the last of the artist’s garden subjects and in 1920 it was part of a retrospective exhibition.
An Austrian collector secured the flowers for €480,000 (£417,390). This was just less than the upper estimate, but still a new record for a painting by Moser. It was also way above the previous Moser painting high, which had stood since December 2008, when Christie’s in London sold Frühling (Spring) from c.1896 for £240,000.
The auctioneers at Dorotheum (25/22% buyer’s premium) in Vienna had expected a 6 x 11in (15 x 28cm) composition in oil by Nicolas de Staël (1914-55) to take the highest price at the sale of modern and contemporary art on May 31. The hammer price of €330,000 (£286,960) was some way above the upper estimate.
This result was, however, completely overshadowed by the price for a painting by Emilio Vedova (1919-2006), which set a new auction record in the process. His large-format, 4ft 9in x 6ft 5in (1.45 x 1.96m) canvas Tensione, N 4 V (Tension, N 4 V) from 1959 illustrated how the artist had abandoned his geometrical patterns and returned to his dynamic action paintings with their spontaneous, colourful brush strokes.
The guide of €150,000-200,000 was not unrealistic, but the auctioneer was surprised by the tension – and the bidding action – in the room and on the phones. At the close, the unnamed buyer had to pay €650,000 (£565,220), trumping the previous auction record of €630,000, set in 2008 by Christie’s in Milan for Ciclo 61/62 N.2, an oil and collage from 1961-62.