Soutine $18 Million Pastry Chef Leads Christie’s Auction

Christie’s New York rang up $158.5 million in sales of Impressionist and modern art last night in a brisk yet lackluster auction.

The tally surpassed the presale low target of $131.4 million but fell short of the $190.5 million high estimate and Sotheby’s $230 million tally in the same categories Tuesday night. Of the 47 lots offered, all but three found buyers.

“This was generally a sale that didn’t have any stars,” said Phyllis Hattis, a private art dealer in Manhattan. “There wasn’t any excitement to the art.”

While Sotheby’s the previous night had as its top lot Paul Cezanne’s “Les Pommes” fetching $41.6 million, Christie’s had Chaim Soutine’s “Le Petit Patissier,” which went for a little more than $18 million.

The price fell within the presale estimate of $16 million to $22 million, while exceeding Soutine’s previous auction record of $17.2 million, set in 2007 at Sotheby’s.

The work sold on a single bid by Xin Li, Christie’s deputy chairman of Asian business development, representing an unnamed client on the phone.

Painted around 1927, the work has been in the same collection since 1977. A third party provided an undisclosed guarantee, ensuring that the painting would sell.

An expected highlight, Andre Derain’s 1905 painting “Madame Matisse au Kimono,” which had a presale estimate of $15 million to $20 million, failed to attract a single bid.

Flushed Faces

An Egon Schiele painting, depicting the artist and his model and consigned by the Neue Galerie in New York, did better. It saw bidding rise quickly from $2.8 million to $10 million ($11.3 million with fees). The winners, a couple in the sales room, looked flushed and excited with their purchase.

Marc Chagall continued his strong performance from Tuesday night at Sotheby’s where a work on paper sold for $4.8 million. Last night his 1926 circus scene, “Les Trois Acrobates,” fetched $13 million, surpassing the high presale estimate of $9 million. It was the highest price for the artist since 2007. The acrobats came from the same collection as the Soutine’s pastry chef, according to Christie’s.

Amedeo Modigliani’s portrait of a young Jewish woman, “La Juive,” surged to $6.8 million, more than doubling its high estimate. The winner sat in the room filming the bidding war on his telephone. After placing the winning bid, he looked into the camera lens and grinned.

After Claude Monet’s 1885 painting “Chemin” sold for $5.2 million to Addison Fine Arts gallery, loud “woohoos” erupted in a sky box.

New Buyers

No cheers greeted the action on Henri Matisse’s “Jeune Femme Assise en Robe Grise,” which went for $4.9 million, just short of the low estimate of $5 million. (Prices include the buyer’s fee; estimates don’t.)

“It’s very hard to get the most stellar Monet or Matisse these days, so buyers are looking for the best within what’s available,” said Suzanne Gyorgy, global head of art advising and finance at Citi Private Bank. “There are a lot of new buyers from emerging economies in the Impressionist market, which is historically the entry point into collecting once they look beyond the regional artists or reach a level of wealth when they can afford a $1 million picture.”

Muse highlights include Jason Harper on cars, Rich Jaroslovsky on technology.

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