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Archive for Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Auction of Saint Laurent items fetches record for a Matisse

February 24, 2009

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— A painting by Henri Matisse sold Monday for $41.1 million — a record auction price for a work by the artist — at an art sale from the estate of Yves Saint Laurent, Christie’s said.

The sale came at the start of a three-day Paris auction of art from the collection of the late French fashion designer that some are calling “the sale of the century.”

A Piet Mondrian painting that had inspired one of Saint Laurent’s most memorable dresses sold for nearly $25 million.

Sales reached $263.6 million in the auction’s first day — marked by six world record prices for works by individual artists at auction, Christie’s auction house said. Fierce bidding in the cavernous, glass-topped Grand Palais museum hall quieted concerns that the global financial crisis might damage the auction’s prospects.

Matisse’s 1911 oil painting “Les coucous, tapis bleu et rose,” (The Cowslips, Blue and Rose Fabric) sold for a total of $45.9 million, including the buyer’s premium, Christie’s said.

Mondrian’s 1922 painting “Composition in Blue, Red, Yellow and Black,” with rectangles of saturated colors that had inspired Saint Laurent’s 1965 shift dress, sold for $24.6 million, or about twice the pre-auction estimate. A wood sculpture by Constantin Brancusi entitled “Madame L.R.” went for $33.3 million. Those prices exclude the buyer’s premium.

Christie’s officials said they were still working on confirming the identities of the buyers, who mostly came from North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

The night’s big surprise was that the lot that had been expected to fetch the highest price — a 1914-1915 Picasso “Instruments de musique sur un gueridon,” (Musical Instruments on a Table) — didn’t even sell.

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