Picture; 123RF/MAKSIM SHEBEKO
Picture; 123RF/MAKSIM SHEBEKO

New York — The sale of the art collection amassed by the late banker David Rockefeller kicked off on Tuesday, setting new auction records for French artists Claude Monet and Henri Matisse, Christie’s said.

Monet’s Nymphéas en Fleur, part of the impressionist’s famed water-lily series inspired by his Giverny home, fetched $84.69m at the evening sale in New York, the auction house said. The previous record for the French artist had been $81.4m, set by Christie’s in 2016 for Meule from Monet’s famous grainstack series.

Tuesday’s sale also set a new auction record for Henri Matisse, with his 1923 Odalisque Couchée aux Magnolias selling for $80.75m, Christie’s said. The previous Matisse record was $49m.

However, the top lot of the night was Pablo Picasso’s 1905 masterpiece Fillette à la Corbeille Fleurie (Young Girl With a Flower Basket), which sold for $115m, more than its pre-sale value of $100m.

Its original purchase by Gertrude and Leon Stein, together with two other Rose Period paintings, helped jump start Picasso’s career. The Rockefellers purchased the canvas in December 1968.

Christie’s is selling off 1,600 items from the glittering collection of Rockefeller, the billionaire who died last year aged 101, and his wife Peggy. The three-day sale is expected to rake in $600m and smash the previous record for a collection set by that of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, which fetched $484m in 2009.

It sees Christie’s, for the first time, spread its flagship spring sales over two weeks, twice the traditional length. The May 2018 season is expected to break new records, six months after Christie’s sold a Leonardo da Vinci for $450.3m, more than doubling the world record for any work of art bought at auction.

Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger (The Women of Algiers (Version O)) previously sold for $179.4m at Christie’s in New York in May 2015.

AFP