Masterfully Done : Christie’s sale of Impressionist and Modern Art

Christie’s sale of Impressionist and Modern Art exceeds expectations as collectors with deep pockets pay sky-high prices

Photography Provided by CHRISTIE’S IMAGES LTD. 2006


Christie’s sale of Impressionist and Modern Art totaled $180,280,000, and was 95 percent sold by value and 86 percent by lot in less than two hours. The figures represent the highest total for an Impressionist and Modern Art Evening sale since 1990, and the second-highest in company history for this category. The highlights of the evening were Vincent van Gogh’s portrait of Madame Ginoux, L’Arlésienne, which realized $40,336,000, the fourth-highest price ever obtained for a painting at auction by the artist, and Le Repos, 1932, Pablo Picasso’s portrayal of his wife, the Russian ballerina Olga Khokhlova, which sold for $34,736,000- well above the pre-sale expectations of $15-20 million. The work is the first, largest and most historically important of three great paintings executed by the artist at the end of January 1932. Le Repos deals with many elements of Picasso’s life, including his fear of his own mortality and the relationship with his bipolar, superstitious and temperamental wife.

Portrait de Germaine, from a distinguished New York Collection, is a haunting, 1902 portrait also painted by Picasso; it sold for $18,608,000, on its high estimate. In it, a young Picasso masterfully exposes his own searching soul through the image of a woman who would continue to appear in his work during his blue period.

“Christie’s results this evening reflect a strong, solid and successful market – there were some very high prices, but participating collectors remain focused and controlled,” said Christopher Burge, Honorary Chairman of Christie’s and the evening’s auctioneer. “In the crowded sale room, the spirited bidders competed with the international telephone lines as passionate collectors sought their chosen works.” Of the buyers, 51 percent were American, 35 percent European, 5 percent Asian and 9 percent other.