Modiglianis and Mattisse Give Sotheby’s an Edge

Modigliani, "Nude Sitting on a Divan"

The fall auction season started off with the Sotheby’s sale of Impressionist and modern art.  For the past few years, I (and the rest of the art world) have been a little worried about how Christie’s and Sotheby’s auctions would fare in harder times.  But after a so-so year in 2009, the auction season seems to be off to a better start.

At the Sotheby’s auction, the big sales were Modigliani’s 1917 “Nude sitting on a Divan (The Beautiful Roman Women)” and Matisse’s 1942 “Dancer in an Armchair with a Checkered Floor.”  Says the New York Times:

That painting, which depicts Carla Avogardo, a dancer friend of the artist, in a bright yellow chair against a background of black and white checks, had been estimated at $12 million to $18 million but ended up selling for $18.5 million, or $20.8 million with fees.

The real star of the auction, however, was the Modigliani.  According to private dealer Nicholas Maclean, Modlianis on the market are a rare thing indeed.  The painting sold for $68.9 million, a price well above the estimate of $40 million.  Another work by the artist, 1917’s “Jeanne Huberterne Wearing a Hat,” sold for $19.1 million.  This is one of my personal favorite Modigiani’s.  It depicts his common law wife and muse who was an artist herself.

Sotheby’s seems to be “winning” the season so far, seeing as Matisse’s 1978 “Back Iv,” the big piece of the Christie’s auction on November 03, only went for $48.8 million, well below Sotheby’s star.

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