Monet fetches $44 million, record Kandinsky at N.Y. auction

Wed Nov 7, 2012 11:11pm EST
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By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Monet water lilies painting sold for nearly $43.8 million on Wednesday while a Kandinsky fetched an artist's record $23 million as Christie's kicked off the auction season with a sale that saw many mid-level works failing to find buyers.

"Nympheas," one of Monet's iconic water lilies from 1905, executed during his years at Giverny, had been estimated to sell for $30 million to $50 million, and just managed its middle range with a final price of $43,762,500 including commission.

Wassily Kandinsky's "Studie fur Improvisation 8," meanwhile, hit the low end of its $20 million to $30 million estimate, and set a new auction record for the Russian artist. The vibrant work was being sold by Switzerland's Volkart Foundation.

But 30 percent of the 69 works on offer failed to sell when bids failed to reach the reserve, the secret price at which a client has agreed to sell a work.

In all the auction took in a total of just under $205 million, missing the low pre-sale estimate of about $210 million (estimates do not include commission charges of about 12 percent). The high estimate was about $315 million.

Christie's nonetheless said it was pleased with the results.

"It was very, very strong sale, with great results" for top lots including the Monet, and a Brancusi sculpture "Une muse," which sold for $12.4 million, said Brooke Lampley, head of Impressionist and modern art.

"Classic Impressionism performed really well tonight."   Continued...