Wednesday, June 25, 2008

World record bid for Le Bassin aux Nymphéa by Monet

Le Bassin aux Nymphéa (1919)
signed and dated `Claude Monet 1919' (lower right)
oil on canvas, 39 1/2 x 79 1/8 in. (100.4 x 201 cm.)
courtesy of Christies Images Ltd 2008

Last night, Le Bassin aux Nymphéa by Claude Monet sold for a world record bid of £40.1 million (that's $79,138,799.84 USD at today's prices before commission etc).

The previous highest price paid for a Monet was set only last month when Le Pont du chemin de fer à Argenteuil (1873) was sold for £21.5 million / $41 million in New York. (You can see a photograph of the painting here). Prior to that the auction record was £19.8 million - but this was set 10 years ago. Christies must be very happy people having been responsible for the sale of both paintings. They've received bids totally £61.6m ($120m) for just two paintings by the same artist

Christies were expecting it to fetch between £18-24 million but despite recent sales records in the auction rooms must have been amazed to see fierce bidding escalate bidding to £40m virtually doubling the month-old record.

The fact that the auction last night attracted such a high bid is probably because this is a large Monet - and those rarely come on the market as most are in museums. It's only ever been seen in public once and is part of a particular series of paintings of the waterlilies in the pool at Giverny which are seen as being very associated with the beginning of abstract art. The painting is of the water and the Nymphéa and the reflections in the water of of the sky, clouds and trees above.
Claude Monet’s Le bassin aux nymphéas, is the most significant work from the artist’s water-lily series to be offered at auction in Europe. An expansive and important painting, one of an extremely rare series of four large-scale pictures signed and dated by the artist in 1919, the work is expected to realise £18 million to £24 million. Unlike most of the later works which remained unfinished in the studio at the artist’s death, these four paintings were released by the artist during his lifetime. One of the series is in the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, another was divided and the third is in a private collection, having been sold at Christie’s New York in November 1992.
Christie's briefing: Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale
Exhibition: 20 to 24 June 2008 at Christie’s, 8 King Street, London
If you enjoy impressionist and modern art, then it's well worthwhile taking a look at last night's auction results on the Christies website.

As the Guardian article comments in The price of Monet: gone for £40m as confidence in the market stays strong, the price paid indicates that the high-end of the art market appears completely untouched by economic concerns and behaviour in the rest of the economy. Petro-dollars from Russia and the Middle East are driving the bidding.

Maybe paintings by master paintings and Monet in particular is now being regarded as the new gold standard........?

PS You'll doubtless want to know that the 'middle market' is now regarded as works selling for less than £1 million(!) - but also that this is a market where the signs are that it is beginning to "pause".......

Details of auction:
Lot 16
Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Le bassin aux nymphéas
signed and dated `Claude Monet 1919' (lower right)
oil on canvas
39 1/2 x 79 1/8 in. (100.4 x 201 cm.)
Painted in 1919
Estimate: £18-24 million
Sold £40,921,250 / $80,451,178 / € 51,683,539

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