Big numbers for Impressionist art as New York auctions kick off

Wed May 8, 2013 12:48am EDT
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By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The spring auctions got off to a strong start on Tuesday with Sotheby's solid sale of Impressionist and modern art which took in $230 million, led by a $42 million Cezanne still life and a $26 million Modigliani portrait.

A year after Sotheby's set the world auction record for any work of art with its sale of Edvard Munch's "The Scream" for $120 million, it managed a sale of works by Picasso, Rodin and Monet that saw 85 percent of 71 lots on offer finding buyers and came in just under its high pre-sale estimate of $235 million.

Calling its offerings "an extraordinary group of material," Simon Shaw, New York head of Impressionist and modern art for Sotheby's, said "it's very satisfying to see that the market agreed with us."

"If anyone needed a signal that the Impressionist market is not just alive but thriving, this sale provided the evidence," Shaw added.

The once-dominant Impressionist market has been eclipsed in recent years by the booming market for post-war and contemporary works, which have seen prices spike year after year.

David Norman, Sotheby's worldwide co-chairman of Impressionist and modern art, noted that the results showed that collectors "haven't all moved into contemporary yet."

Officials also said the sale was marked by unprecedented participation from Latin American and Asia collectors, providing further evidence of an increasingly global art market, at least at its highest echelons.

Prices held up against Sotheby's estimates, but bidding was measured and not marked by the free-wheeling sprees that characterized other successful sales in recent seasons.   Continued...

Visitors talk near Paul Cezanne's 'Les Pommes,' estimated between $25-35 million, during a preview of Sotheby's May 7 Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale at Sotheby's in New York, May 3, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Segar