November 2, 2005

A big night for Toulouse-Lautrec and Christie’s

By Christopher Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - It was a big night for Henri de
Toulouse-Lautrec, and Christie's, when the auction house sold
the artist's painting of a laundress for a record-smashing
$22,416,000 on Tuesday.

"The Laundress," the most expensive painting of the annual
autumn art auctions at Christie's and rival Sotheby's, also
achieved the highest price at the first of two weeks of
critical sales, coming in right in the middle of its $20
million to $25 million pre-sale estimate.

The moving portrait of a local woman gazing out a window
from 1886-87 easily eclipsed the old record for
Toulouse-Lautrec of $14,522,500, set in 1997, and was a
critical factor in the success of Christies' Impressionist and
modern sale, which took in $160,931,200 including commission.

Christie's was staging the biggest sale in years and by its
own admission it aggressively pursued an important private
collection. But it suffered a few hefty casualties when Henri
Matisse's "Marguerites," which at $10 million to $15 million
carried the highest estimate after the Toulouse-Lautrec, failed
to sell as bidding topped off at $8.8 million.

A pair of Monets from the same collection of 13 works also
went down, drawing no bids beyond $3.2 million after pre-sale
estimates of $4 million to $6 million.

Christie's honorary chairman and the sale's auctioneer,
Christopher Burge, said the total for the auction was the
biggest since 1990, when a speculation-driven boom market
characterized by a frenzy of buying, mostly by Japanese buyers,
drove prices to then-stratospheric levels.

The sale's total fell just about in the middle of the
pre-sale estimates, with a healthy 58 of the 63 lots on offer
finding buyers.

Other highlights included Monet's "Water Lilies," one of
the artist's seminal works painted in 1907 which fetched
$14,016,000, just under its high estimate of $15 million.

But in some respects the star of the night was Paul
Cezanne's still life, "Apples and cakes," which soared to
$10,320,000, or more than twice its high estimate of $4.5
million, making it the sale's third-most-expensive work.

Works by Pablo Picasso, which landed three of the top 10
lots, and Joan Miro also achieved strong prices, with Picasso's
"Sylvette on a green armchair" selling for $8,080,000 (estimate
$4 million to $6 million), while Miro's "Red sun devouring a
spider" went for $7,744,000, just under its high estimate of $8

The auctions continue on Wednesday when Sotheby's holds its
Impressionist and modern art sale, with contemporary and
post-war sales at both houses slated for next week.