Christie’s got New York’s fall auctions off to a roaring start Monday with a $479.3 million sale of impressionist and modern art, led by a van Gogh field scene that sold to a Chinese telephone bidder for $81.3 million. Bidding for van Gogh’s “Farmer in a Field, Saint Rémy” became a battle between two telephone bidders—one in China, the other represented by Christie’s Chairman Marc Porter. The starting bid was $42 million, but Mr. Porter’s telephone bidder immediately countered with $55 million. It was quickly followed by a $60 million bid—a leapfrogging strategy known to spook rivals who may prefer to bid in smaller increments. But, as with many other pieces in the sale, the Chinese telephone bidder kept pace with Mr. Porter and eventually won the work for far more than the painting’s $50 million estimate. All night long, bidders from China, Indonesia, Taiwan and Japan dominated the top bidding—winning examples by Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri Matisse and Francis Picabia —and were underbidding on at least a dozen more.
This generation of newer Asian buyers buoyed interest in impressionist and modern art a few seasons ago, but now they are resetting prices for some of the world’s most-expensive artists.It helped that the 1889 van Gogh came from the estate of Texas oil tycoons Perry and Nancy Lee Bass, giving the work a reassuring pedigree. At least four bidders also chased after the Bass’s cheery seaside scene by Matisse, “The Regattas of Nice,” which was painted in 1921. It sold for $16.6 million. The Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation also sold Fernand Léger’s red abstract from 1913, “Contrast of Forms,” for $70 million, a record for the artist. Claude Monet’s hazy view of a French river at dawn, “Morning on the Seine,” sold for $23.4 million. Overall, the total easily surpassed the house’s $360 million expectations and reset records for other artists such as Édouard Vuillard, whose interior scene, “Misia and Vallotton in Villeneuve,” sold for $17.8 million—well over its high estimate of $10 million. Of the sale’s 68 offerings, 60 found buyers. After the sale, Christie’s senior specialist Jessica Fertig said the sale surpassed any the house had held for impressionist and modern art in a decade, with all top 10 pieces selling for more than $10 million apiece—a rarity in the auction industry. “That underscores the strength of our market right now and the confidence of our buyers,” Ms. Fertig said. Sotheby’s has its own sale of impressionist and modern art Tuesday.
Source: The Wall Street Journal