Cohen’s Manet Sells for Record $33.2 Million in Art-Market Test

"Odalisques jouant aux dames" by Henri Matisse. The work is included in Sotheby's June 22 sale of Impressionist and modern art in London. Never previously offered at auction before, it was expected to fetch between 10 million pounds and 15 million pounds. It sold for 11.8 million pounds. Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg

An Edouard Manet self portrait sold for a record 22.4 million pounds ($33.2 million) with fees last night as London started its two-week test of the art market.

Hedge-fund manager Steven A. Cohen’s Manet, “Self Portrait With a Palette,” made the most for a work by the artist at auction. Bidders at Sotheby’s bought 112.1 million pounds of modern and Impressionist art, with buyers being selective after recent surges in prices and estimates.

“It’s sometimes tricky to go first,” New York-based dealer Christophe van de Weghe said in an interview at the auction. “There’s a lot of material at these sales and buyers want to get a feel of the mood in the market.”

Christie’s International follows later today, with a sale including a Monet and a Picasso, both estimated to raise as much as 40 million pounds. Phillips de Pury & Co. will also join the marathon evening auctions that feature contemporary works and may raise at least 350 million pounds.

The 1878 Manet, showing the artist dressed as a Parisian dandy, sold to a lone bid in the room from the New York-based dealer Franck Giraud. The hammer price was exactly on the low estimate of 20 million pounds. The self portrait had last appeared at auction in New York at Christie’s 1997 sale of the collection of the Wall Street financier John Loeb, where it was bought by the Las Vegas casino developer Steve Wynn for $18.7 million.

It was subsequently sold privately to Cohen, founder of SAC Capital Advisors LP, for between $35 million and $40 million, said dealers with knowledge of the matter.

Sellers of expensive Impressionist and modern works have been encouraged by results such as the artist-record 65 million pounds paid for Alberto Giacometti’s sculpture, “Walking Man I,” at Sotheby’s in February.

Raised Expectations

“After that Giacometti price, expectations were raised so high,” the London-based dealer Daniella Luxembourg said in an interview. “Not all sales can be blockbusters. Maybe the estimates were a little aggressive.”

Andre Derain’s 1905 Fauvist landscape “Arbres a Collioure,” estimated at 9 million pounds to 14 million pounds, was one of the few high-value works to sell above expectations.

From a cache of works that had been owned by the Paris dealer Ambroise Vollard and hidden in a bank vault for 40 years, the canvas attracted at least four bidders before selling to a telephone buyer for a record 16.3 million pounds.

Henri Matisse’s 1928 Moroccan interior, “Odalisques jouant aux dames,” sold on the telephone for 11.8 million pounds to a buyer identified by dealers as the Greek collector Dimitri Mavrommatis. It had been estimated at 10 million pounds to 15 million pounds.

Matisse Competition

There was more competition for Matisse’s 1935 drawing, “Etude pour ‘Nu rose,’” which was pushed by two telephone bidders to 5.9 million pounds, more than double the top estimate.

“Most of the activity was from Europe and America,” Melanie Clore, Deputy Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, said in an interview. “There was less activity from the emerging markets than we’ve seen in other sales.”

The 1964 Picasso painting, “Femme au chat assise dans un fauteuil,” estimated at as much as 6 million pounds, and Kees van Dongen’s 1920s portrait, “L’Amie de Mrs Edwards,” at 3 million pounds, were among the evening’s two most expensive failures.

“There were some strong prices and there were some disappointments,” auctioneer Henry Wyndham, chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, said immediately after the event. “There was a huge amount of expectation in the press for the sale, and sometimes it’s difficult to realize these expectations. The world isn’t an easy place at the moment.”

Sotheby’s total, including fees, compared with a presale estimate of 101 million pounds to 148.1 million pounds for the 51 lots, based on hammer prices. Sixty-nine percent of the material was successful, with five out of the 10 most expensive sales falling within estimate. The U.S.-based company’s equivalent event last year, held during the financial crisis, raised 33.5 million pounds from 27 lots.

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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