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Sotheby's NY records solid auction

May 06, 2010

Sotheby's in New York recorded a solid auction of impressionist and modern works, confirming the return of life of the high-end art market, but without the fireworks of the previous day at rival Christie's.

Sotheby's landed 195.6 million dollars in sales on Wednesday, at the high end of the 141 to 204 million dollar range estimated before the auction, and a healthy figure compared to the sharp downturn after the 2008 global financial crisis.

"We continue to move in the right direction. The buyers are here, the market is global, art is globally desired and the results are three times higher than what they were just after the crisis hit," said Simon Shaw, head of Sotheby's impressionist and modern art department.

However, several works failed to sell, including Picasso's "Portrait of Sylvette," estimated at four to six million dollars, and the same artist's "Femme sous la lampe," estimated at 3.5 to 4.5 million dollars.

By comparison, Christie's on Tuesday saw 335 million dollars in sales, largely due to the record-setting 106.5 million dollars for Picasso's 1932 "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust."

That beat the art world's previous record sale of 104.3 million dollars in February for Giacometti's "Walking Man I" sculpture in London.

The more muted evening at Sotheby's was largely down to Christie's success ahead of the spring auction season in securing the collection of Frances Lasker Brody, a philanthropist from Los Angeles who died last year.

The two auction houses competed for four months before Christie's secured the deal.

Another Picasso auctioned Wednesday at Sotheby's, "Femme au grand chapeau, buste," fetched 9.3 million dollars, at the lower end of the estimated range.

But other lots sold well, including Matisse's "Bouquet pour le 14 juillet 1919," estimated at 18 to 25 million dollars, and selling for 28.6 million dollars.

A record price for a Salvador Dali was reached with 5.7 million dollars for his "Spectre du soir sur la plage." The previous Dali record was four million dollars.

A sculpture by Japanese-American Isamu Noguchi sold for 4.2 million dollars, well over the previous 1.2 million dollars record.

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