Perhaps the provenance of the night’s biggest lots helped. In addition to the two out-and-out masterpieces once owned by S.I. Newhouse, both of which blasted through their high estimates, work from the estate of H.S.H. Princess “Titi” von Fürstenberg—the Texas collector who was an heir to the oil fortunes of what are now known as Exxon and Texaco—closed out the sale with an 11-lot run, and saved the best for last: Picasso’s Le Lettre (La Réponse) (1923), which landed between its low and high estimates to go for $22 million hammer, seized by Christie’s Los Angeles Imp/mod specialist Morgan Schoonhoven. With fees, the price was $25.2 million.
The estate of Drue Heinz—who married into the Heinz family of condiment billionaires and became a collector as well as a champion of boundary-pushing literature—also sold well throughout the sale, led by a richly stunning Modigliani portrait that hammered at $22 million ($25.2 million with fees) to Cyanne Chutkow, deputy chairman of Christie’s Imp/mod department in New York, well ahead of its high estimate of $18 million. The Heinz collection had also consigned the Bonnard that would go on to break the record: La Terrasse ou Une terrasse à Grasse (1912), which more than doubled its high estimate of $8 million to hammer down at $17 million (or $19.5 million with fees).
And a run of work from the collection of Dorothy and Richard Sherwood, who for decades were influential Los Angeles museum patrons, was led by Balthus’s Thérèse sur une banquette (1939), a racy portrait of the young Thérèse Blanchard, whom he painted 10 times—often creating masterpieces out of the muse. The Sherwoods bought it from Balthus’s dealer in 1962, and it remained in their collection until Monday night, when its new owner, on the phone with Christie’s Imp/mod deputy chairman Conor Jordan, nabbed it for a $16.5 million hammer price, or $19 million with fees—enough to smash the French artist’s previous auction record, set when Lady Abdy (1935) sold for $9.9 million at the Artist’s Muse sale at Christie’s in November 2015.