Christie’s‘ recent series of five evening sales in four days raked in much more than the $200 million pre-sale estimate. In fact, the Impressionist and Modern spring auction garnered almost $150 million more than a similar sale did in 2016.
In all, about $289.2 million changed hands last week. The auction house sold off 78 percent of the works it had up for auction, with 43 of the 53 pieces finding new homes over the four day event.
The biggest catch was a Constantin Brancusi work called La Muse Enormie (1913), a patinated bronze with gold leaf that was based off a marble version originally completed in 1910. The high estimate for the Brancusi piece was $30 million, and when the final gavel fell, it sold for $57.4 million, crushing the $37.3-million auction record previously held for the artist.
Next on the sale list was a portrait of Picasso’s lover called Dora Maar, Femme Assise, Robe Bleue (1939) which fetched $40 million ($45 million when the Christie’s premium was added). The last time this particular piece sold was in 2011, when it earned $29 million at a Christie’s auction in London.
The painting was captured by the Nazis when they took it from Picasso’s French art dealer Paul Rosenberg shortly after it was painted. Held in occupied France, the Picasso work was intercepted by French soldiers as the Nazis attempted to bring it back to Germany near the end of the war.
Another Picasso work, Femme Assise Dans un Fauteuil (1920), which fetched a little under $30.5 million, also helped buoy the high total.
Other sold works came from the likes of Claude Monet, Marc Chagall, Joan Miro, and Wassily Kandinsky. One of the reasons for the uptick in this particular auction might have been the rarity of the pieces being offered; many enter the market once in a lifetime. “Eighty-four per cent of the lots in the sale had not been on the market for 20-plus years,” Christie’s Head of Sale Jessica Fertig explained. “That is what all of our clients are looking for.”