Monet painting smashes record, art boom goes on

Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:30pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - A Monet water-lily painting sold for 41 million pounds ($80.5 million) Tuesday, doubling the previous auction record for the artist and ensuring London's key art market season got off to a flying start.

"Le Bassin aux Nympheas" had been expected to fetch 18-24 million pounds, but after an intense bidding battle it smashed the previous Monet auction record of $41.5 million set in May.

It was part of the evening sale of impressionist and modern art at Christie's which raised 144 million pounds ($283 million), the highest total for an auction in Europe. All figures include buyers' premiums.

Olivier Camu, head of impressionist and modern art at Christie's in London, said the sale "illustrates the continuing strength and confidence of the art market."

Some experts have predicted a correction or even collapse in values due to deepening economic gloom caused by falling stocks, rising oil prices and the mortgage meltdown.

Christie's, its main rival Sotheby's and other London auction houses hold a series of sales of modern and contemporary art over the next 10 days during which works worth more than $1 billion will go under the hammer.

Elsewhere in the evening sale, a pastel picture by Degas sold for 13.5 million pounds ($26.5 million), well above its pre-sale estimate of around 5 million and the second highest price paid for the artist at auction.

RICH RUSSIANS   Continued...

<p>Claude Monet's "Le Bassin aux Nympheas" is seen in an undated handout photo. REUTERS/Christie's/Handout</p>