May 15, 2015 / 3:43 AM / 4 years ago

Christie's caps two weeks of big spending on art with a Mondrian record

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Art collectors continued lavish spending on Thursday as the spring art auctions wrapped up at Christie’s, where a $50.6 million oil by Piet Mondrian set an artist’s record and went far towards the auction house’s $202.6 million Impressionist and modern sale total.

Auctioneer Jussi Pylkkanen calls for final bids before dropping the gavel as he sells Pablo Picasso's "Les femmes d'Alger (Version 'O')" (Women of Algiers) at Christie's Auction House in the Manhattan borough of New York May 11, 2015. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

With 43 works on offer, only three failed to sell, while Christie’s exceeded its high pre-sale estimate by more than $40 million.

The result capped two weeks of sales that have brought in well over $2 billion at Christie’s and rival Sotheby’s, with Christie’s boasting a new record for history’s top auction price with Picasso’s “Les femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’),” which fetched $179.4 million. Christie’s’ alone took in more than $1.3 billion during the course of its Monday and Wednesday evening sales.

“This sale marks a record-setting week for the global auction market,” said Brooke Lampley, head of Impressionist and modern art of Thursday’s strong result.

Officials said international demand by a growing pool of relatively new collectors competing with more established ones for a fixed supply of masterpieces had driven prices at the art market’s top echelons to record levels.

Sotheby’s said Asian buyers had accounted for more than 30 percent of its evening sales, most notably van Gogh’s “L’Allée des Alyscamps,” which sold for $66.3 million last week to a mainland Chinese buyer.

The auction house logged its second-best results ever at both its Impressionist/modern and post-war/contemporary sales.

The highlight at Christie’s on Thursday, as expected, was Mondrian’s “Composition No. III, with Red, Blue, Yellow, and Black,” which soared far beyond its estimate of $15 million to $25 million as six international bidders competed.

At $50.6 million, it obliterated Mondrian’s auction record of $27.6 million, which had stood since 2009.

Modigliani’s canvas “Beatrice Hastings” also did well, selling for $16.1 million against a high estimate of $10 million, while Fernand Léger’s “Le corsage rouge” similarly outperformed expectations, selling for just under $17 million including Christie’s commission of just over 12 percent.

Editing by Michael Perry

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