Monet "Poplar" set to fetch $25 million at auction

Fri Mar 25, 2011 11:42am EDT
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By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A pristine Monet masterpiece from the artist's celebrated "Poplars" series will be featured at Christie's in May, when it is expected to sell for as much as $30 million, the auction house said on Friday.

"Les Peupliers," the largest from Monet's famed paintings depicting poplar trees executed during his years in Giverny, is being sold by an Asian collector who purchased it at auction in 2000 for just over $7 million.

After a precipitous decline following the financial crisis that hit in late 2008, the art market came roaring back last year with works breaking the $100 million mark, artists' records being broken and auction houses raking in cash once again.

"The appearance of this masterpiece quality work marks the first time in over a decade that a major 1890s series painting has come to auction," said Conor Jordan, Christie's head of Impressionist and modern art.

"We anticipate great enthusiasm from many collectors, dealers and museum directors who have been eager for a quintessential Monet scene such as this," Jordan added.

Prices for top-quality works by Monet have soared in recent seasons, Christie's noted. An increasingly limited supply of masterpieces, recovering markets that have freed up liquidity and increasing confidence in fine art as an investment, have all helped drive levels ever higher.

The auction record for a Monet is $80.4 million set in May 2008 by "Le Bassin aux Nympheas" from the artist's renowned Waterlilies series, which was about twice the pre-sale estimate.

The majority of the 24 works from the Poplars series hang in major art museums including London's Tate Gallery, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Tokyo's National Museum of Art.

"Les Peupliers" will be sold in New York on May 4 after touring in Moscow and London in April.

Monet painted it during the summer of 1891 after striking a deal with a wood cutter not to cut down a stand of poplar trees on the river near his home until he could finish painting them.