November 5, 2010 / 1:09 AM / in 7 years

Matisse bronze wins record $48.8 mln at Christie's

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A monumental Matisse sculpture broke the artist’s auction record on Wednesday, drawing $48.8 million at Christie’s sale of Impressionist and modern art.

<p>Bronze with dark brown patina by Henri Matisse is seen in a handout photo. REUTERS/Christie's/Handout</p>

The auction’s $231.4 million total, comfortably within its estimate range, came despite persistent economic uncertainty, as global bidding helped drive one of Christie’s biggest Impressionist sales since the financial crisis hit in 2008.

Eighty percent of the 84 lots on offer found buyers, and a record was set for Juan Gris.

“It was a very strong sale with bidding from all over the world,” said Christopher Burge, Christie’s honorary chairman, who also served as auctioneer.

Nearly one-fourth of the works sold were snapped up by buyers from Asia and other regions outside Europe and the United States.

”We saw huge demand from collectors worldwide,“ particularly for such trophy pieces as Matisse’s ‘Nu de dos, 4 etat (Back IV),'” Conor Jordan, Christie’s head of Impressionist and modern art, told Reuters.

Multiple bidders drove the price to $48.8 million including commission for the iconic bronze. The price eclipsed the old record for Matisse by nearly $3 million.

Auction officials and art market analysts say new collectors overseas, flush with cash, have been spending freely in recent seasons to build up their collections quickly.

The Matisse was the second major record in two nights, after Sotheby’s sold a Modigliani nude for $69.0 million.

Wednesday’s other record was for Gris’ “Violon et guitare,” which fetched $28.6 million, beating its high estimate.

A Miro reportedly owned by financier Henry Kravis fared less well, selling to a European dealer for $10.3 million, well under the $12 million low estimate.

Most of the sale’s top lots were bought by dealers and galleries, signaling their anticipation of a market once again on the upswing.

The auctions continue next week when the post-war and contemporary sales are poised to exceed the once-dominant Impressionist and modern results.

Editing by Jerry Norton

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