Edvard Munch’s ‘Girls’ May Fetch $50 Million at Sotheby’s Sale

  • Painting is top lot at $146 million November auction
  • There’s ‘appetite to buy but not many people wanting to sell’

Four years after Edvard Munch was crowned the most expensive artist at auction, the Norwegian painter will take center stage again in New York next month.

The artist’s 1902 canvas “Girls on the Bridge” is estimated at more than $50 million, the most costly of the announced lots for the bellwether semiannual auctions in November. The artwork, depicting a group of women in colorful long dresses, will lead Sotheby’s evening sale of Impressionist and modern art on Nov. 14.

Girls on the Bridge

Source: Sotheby’s

The painting was first brought into the U.S. by industrialist and collector Norton Simon in the 1960s, Sotheby’s said. It has been included in museum exhibitions, including London’s Tate Modern and New York’s Guggenheim, according to Sotheby’s. It is consigned by an anonymous collector who purchased the work for $30.8 million at Sotheby’s in 2008. The company guaranteed the seller an undisclosed minimum price and found a third-party backer who agreed to place an irrevocable bid, ensuring the work sells.

Sotheby’s set five Munch auction records in the past 20 years, according to Simon Shaw, the company’s co-head of Impressionist and modern art worldwide. “Girls on the Bridge" sold for $7.7 million in 1996, then Munch’s record. In 2012, the artist’s most iconic image, “The Scream," fetched $119.9 million.

Sotheby’s evening sale has 43 lots, targeting more than $145.8 million, the company said. That’s a 52 percent decline from the result of the similar auction a year ago when just two paintings from the collection of billionaire William Koch tallied $101 million.

“There’s an appetite to buy but not many people wanting to sell,” said Shaw.

The season’s line-up was impacted by the lack of significant estate sales, he said. Discretionary sellers are affected by the uncertainty over U.S. presidential election, U.K.’s Brexit vote and oil prices, he said.

The top lot at rival Christie’s Impressionist and modern art sale is Claude Monet’s painting of a haystack, estimated at about $45 million.

Sotheby’s will also offer Pablo Picasso’s 1963 painting, “Le Peintre et son modele" that has been in the same collection since 1968 and is estimated at $12 million to $18 million.

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