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Christie's Shatters Records in 20th Century Art Sales

Christie's New York hosted a 20th-century art sale on Thursday night, spanning two and a half hours, raking in a staggering $640.8 million. The event marked record highs for auction sales of works by Fernando Botero, Richard Diebenkorn, Arshile Gorky, Barbara Hepworth, Joan Mitchell, and Joan Snyder. Out of the 63 pieces put up, all but two found eager buyers, while two lots were withdrawn.

The auction witnessed remarkable bidding intensity both within the venue and over the phone, with a majority being American bidders throughout the evening. A special acknowledgement was made to the respected auctioneer, Jussi Pylkkänen, who presided over the first half of the sale in his final performance before retiring after an illustrious 38-year tenure with the house.

Read on to learn more about some of their top sales:

Claude Monet, Le bassin aux nymphéas, 1917–19. Courtesy of Christie’s Images Limited 2023. Courtesy of Christie’s.

Claude Monet's masterpiece, "Le bassin aux nymphéas (1917–1919)," commanded an astonishing price of $74 million at auction. This iconic piece, with its ethereal depiction of the water lilies and serene pond, stands as a testament to Monet's unparalleled mastery of light and color. Its sale not only signifies the enduring allure of Monet's work but also underscores the timeless appeal and enduring value of impressionist art in the contemporary market.

Francis Bacon, Figure in Movement, 1976. Courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd.

Francis Bacon's evocative artwork, "Figure in Movement (1976)," achieved a remarkable sale price of $52 million, a testament to the enduring fascination with Bacon's distinctive and often haunting creations. Known for his visceral and emotionally charged depictions, this particular piece encapsulates Bacon's mastery in portraying the human form in an almost visceral state of flux and intensity. The sale not only underscores the continued allure of Bacon's unparalleled oeuvre but also reflects the ongoing intrigue and value placed on works that push the boundaries of artistic expression.

Richard Diebenkorn’s Recollections of a Visit to Leningrad (1965), oil on canvas. Courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd.

Richard Diebenkorn's "Recollections of a Visit to Leningrad (1965)" achieved an astounding record-breaking sale of $46.4 million, marking a pinnacle in the artist's auction history. This piece stands as a captivating testament to Diebenkorn's distinctive style, melding abstract expressionism with elements of landscape and memory. The soaring price not only highlights the rarity and significance of this particular artwork but also speaks volumes about the growing appreciation and recognition of Diebenkorn's contribution to the art world. His adeptness at capturing a sense of place and emotion within abstracted forms continues to captivate collectors, reaffirming his enduring legacy in the realm of modern art.

Mark Rothko, Untitled (Yellow, Orange, Yellow, Light Orange), 1955, Courtesy of 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Mark Rothko's captivating artwork, "Untitled (Yellow, Orange, Yellow, Light Orange) (1955)," fetched a staggering $46.4 million at auction, reaffirming the enduring appeal and value of Rothko's abstract expressionist creations. This canvas, with its luminous blocks of color that seem to pulsate with inner light, embodies Rothko's mastery in evoking profound emotional depth through minimalist form and color. The record-breaking sale not only underscores the continued allure of Rothko's transcendent compositions but also highlights the timeless resonance of abstract art that transcends the boundaries of language, inviting viewers into contemplative and deeply personal experiences with color and form.

Picasso’s portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter, Femme Endormie, Courtesy of Christie’s Images Limited 2023

Pablo Picasso's mesmerizing piece, "Femme Endormie (1934)," achieved an impressive sale of $42.9 million, a testament to the enduring allure of Picasso's prolific and diverse body of work. This artwork, showcasing Picasso's signature Cubist style, captures a sense of serene intimacy with its fragmented yet harmonious portrayal of a sleeping woman. The significant sale not only underscores the timeless fascination with Picasso's artistic genius but also reaffirms the enduring value placed on his ability to revolutionize artistic conventions, continuously captivating audiences and collectors alike with his innovative and influential contributions to the art world.

Joan Mitchell, Untitled (1959), oil on canvas, 70 3/4 x 63 1/4 inches. Courtesy of the Estate of Joan Mitchell.

Joan Mitchell's evocative piece, "Untitled (1959)," commanded a remarkable sale of $29 million, signaling a growing appreciation for Mitchell's significant contributions to the realm of abstract expressionism. Known for her emotionally charged and dynamic compositions, this artwork showcases Mitchell's distinctive brushwork and vibrant use of color, inviting viewers into a whirlwind of energetic and intricate layers. The substantial sale not only underscores the increasing recognition of Mitchell's profound impact on the art world but also highlights the enduring relevance of her ability to convey raw emotion and energy through her bold and expressive canvases, solidifying her place among the foremost figures of abstract art history.

Fernando Botero, The Musicians, oil on canvas, 85½ x 74¾ in. (217 x 190 cm.), 1979. Courtesy of Christie’s Images Limited 2023

Fernando Botero's captivating artwork, "The Musicians (1979)," fetched a notable sale of $5 million, attesting to the enduring appeal of Botero's distinctive style and his ability to infuse his subjects with a sense of whimsy and charm. Known for his voluptuous and exaggerated figures, this piece showcases Botero's trademark use of rounded forms and rich colors, portraying a jovial ensemble of musicians in his signature exaggerated style. Despite its caricature-like appearance, the artwork exudes a sense of harmony and joy, emphasizing Botero's knack for capturing the essence of everyday scenes with a playful and endearing touch. The sale reflects both the ongoing fascination with Botero's unique artistic vision and the timeless allure of his vibrant and exuberant creations in the art market.


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