(All prices noted here, unless specified as the hammer price, include the buyer’s premium, which is 20 percent of the hammer price from $250,001 up to and including $4 million, and 12.5 percent of the hammer price when the hammer exceeds $4,000,001.)
A few lots later came the Matisse nude, which held a pre-sale estimate of $70 million. Christie’s touted the work throughout its lush catalogue as one of the greatest works by Matisse to ever come to auction, and one of the finest left in private hands. Bidding began at $58 million, and Pylkkanen offered chandelier bids (bids on behalf of the seller that are allowed to be made up to the lot’s reserve) until post-war and contemporary chairman Loic Gouzer came in at $62 million. Gouzer then had to one-up Wei, until Xin Li, the deputy chairman for Asia, came in with a bid for $70 million that could, perhaps, secure the Matisse. Gouzer managed to get in a bid for $71 million, but Li quickly went to $71.5 million, where it hammered.
Asian collectors were not done for the evening. Just two lots later came Monet’s Nymphéas en fleur, which had an estimate in the area of $50 million, but quickly eclipsed it as multiple Christie’s specialists on the phone remained in play as the bidding rolled past the $60 million mark.
“It’s like a tennis game with five rackets!” Pylkkanen exclaimed to the rapt sales room. Li once again had to fend off a colleague, this time Francis Outred, the head of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s London. After Li hit the $70 million threshold, Outred casually bumped up to $71 million. Li rallied with a $71.5 million return, and after Outred offered a $72 million bid, Li leaped to $75 million, ending the conversation and forcing down the hammer. The final price of $84.7 million including fees was well above the work’s $50 million estimate.