| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Nov 7 A Monet water lilies painting
sold for nearly $43.8 million on Wednesday while a Kandinsky
fetched an artist's record $23 million as Christie's kicked off
the auction season with a sale that saw many mid-level works
failing to find buyers.
"Nympheas," one of Monet's iconic water lilies from 1905,
executed during his years at Giverny, had been estimated to sell
for $30 million to $50 million, and just managed its middle
range with a final price of $43,762,500 including commission.
Wassily Kandinsky's "Studie fur Improvisation 8," meanwhile,
hit the low end of its $20 million to $30 million estimate, and
set a new auction record for the Russian artist. The vibrant
work was being sold by Switzerland's Volkart Foundation.
But 30 percent of the 69 works on offer failed to sell when
bids failed to reach the reserve, the secret price at which a
client has agreed to sell a work.
In all the auction took in a total of just under $205
million, missing the low pre-sale estimate of about $210 million
(estimates do not include commission charges of about 12
percent). The high estimate was about $315 million.
Christie's nonetheless said it was pleased with the results.
"It was very, very strong sale, with great results" for top
lots including the Monet, and a Brancusi sculpture "Une muse,"
which sold for $12.4 million, said Brooke Lampley, head of
Impressionist and modern art.
"Classic Impressionism performed really well tonight."
Lampley also noted that the sale's unusually high percentage
of discretionary selling - when collectors decide to sell,
versus estate sales that happen because the owner is deceased -
was "very much a sign that collectors are feeling confident in
the market. They are choosing to sell," which she said was a
testament to the increasing strength of art as an asset class.
But the atmosphere in the room was muted and for works that
sold, bidding was steady but far from unbridled. Bidders tried
to cut increments in half from the next solicited bid, and the
salesroom was more than half empty before the sale ended.
Officials privately attributed the relatively high
percentage of works that failed to sell - nearly one third -
chiefly to a single collection whose owner was unwilling to
lower the reserve prices in the days leading up to the sale.
In all, six lots sold for more than $10 million each. Other
highlights included Miro's "Peinture (Femme, Journal, Chien),
which went for $13.75 million, and Picasso's "Buste de femme,"
and oil on canvas that at $13 million was one of the few works
to beat its pre-sale estimate handily.
Proceeds from the Monet sale will benefit a private prep
school in Tarrytown, N.Y., which received the work in a bequest.
Two Giacometti sculptures, "La Jambe" and "Tete sur tige,"
fetched $11.3 million and $6.8 million respectively.
Among casualties were a Picasso sculpture, "Coq," estimated
at $10 million to $15 million, and works by Chagall and Degas,
the latter estimated to sell for as much as $10 million.
The auctions continue on Thursday when Sotheby's holds its
sale of Impressionist and modern art, which it postponed from
Monday due to Superstorm Sandy which hit the region last week.