The evening sale of European masterworks from the collection of David Rockefeller began at Christie’s Tuesday evening, and eight lots in, Henri Matisse’s Odalisque couchée aux magnolias (1923) has sold for $80.75 million with fees, beating the artist’s previous record of $48.8 million, set when a bronze sculpture sold at Christie’s in 2010. It went to the bidder on the phone with Xin Li, Deputy Chairman, Asia Pacific, after bidding went on for over three minutes.
Christie’s global president Jussi Pylkkanen, standing at the rostrum, opened the bidding at $58 million and bid up on behalf of the seller until Post-war and Contemporary chairman Loic Gouzer came in at $62 million. Gouzer fended off Christie’s Asia president Rebecca Wei, trading off bids, until Li came in with a bid for $70 million that could secure the Matisse. Gouzer managed to get in a bid for $71 million but Li quickly went to $71.5 million, where it hammered.
Christie’s has been claiming the painting is one of the greatest works by Matisse to ever come to auction, and one of the finest left in private hands. It was painted after the artist left for Nice following World War I, and was acquired by Matisse’s dealers Josse and Gaston Bernheim-Jeune at the Salon d’Automne in 1923. The painting was then purchased by Chicago collector Leigh Block with the help of Alfred Barr, the founding director of Museum of Modern Art, in 1956. After just two years with the work, Block sold the work to Rockefeller through the latter’s dealer of choice, Sam Salz.