Claude Monet was Sotheby’s big moneymaker yet again on Tuesday night, when the artist’s work topped the house’s Impressionist and modern art evening sale in New York. All four of Sotheby’s evening sales in the category this year have been led by Monet paintings, most notably his record-setting Meules (1890–91), which sold for $110.7 million in May. Tuesday night’s sale was a more muted affair, bringing in a grand total of $209 million, surpassing Christie’s $191.9-million Impressionist and modern sale on Monday night but falling well below its equivalent auction last year, which totaled $315.4 million, and May’s $349.8-million sale. With three lots withdrawn and eight failing to sell, the 53-lot sale achieved a sell-through rate of 84 percent by lot.
The night’s two biggest surprises notched its fourth- and fifth-highest prices. Alberto Giacometti’s 1953 sculpture Buste d’homme (Diego au blouson) sparked the sale’s most protracted bidding war, pushing its price well past its high estimate of $8 million. It eventually sold for a hammer price of $12.3 million, or $14.2 million with fees. A work by a female artist was the only lot to break a major auction record. Dueling phone bidders quickly pushed Polish painter Tamara de Lempicka’s portrait of a reclining figure La Tunique rose (1927) over its high estimate of $8 million. It eventually sold for a hammer price of $11.5 million, or $13.4 million with fees, surpassing her previous record of $9.1 million, set a year ago at Christie’s by La Musicienne (1929).
New York’s fall sales continue Wednesday with the day auctions of Impressionist and modern art at Sotheby’s and Christie’s evening sale of post-war and contemporary art.