Goetz Collection Picasso Sold for $24.75 Million

Times Art Writer

A stunningly successful auction of a Hollywood art collection, expected to bring $50 million, Monday night rang up $85 million in sales and included the highest price ever paid for a Picasso.

“Motherhood,” a painting from Picasso’s Blue Period, sold for $24.75 million, the third-highest price ever paid for a work of art.

In a continuing series of big-ticket auctions, Christie’s sale of 28 works of Impressionist and modern art from the William and Edith Mayer Goetz collection also set a record for a single-owner auction.

“The pictures did better than we could possibly have dreamed,” said Christopher Burge, Christie’s president and chief auctioneer.

Burge called the sale “a perfect balance” of competitors from the United States, Europe and Japan, but disclosed that the bidder who parted with the most money was from Latin America.


The sale of the Picasso to the unidentified Latin American, who bid by telephone, broke the artist’s auction record of $15.4 million, set only last Thursday at Sotheby’s sale of the Sally and Victor W. Ganz collection.

The successful auction Monday night promptly restored confidence in the Impressionist and modern art market.

A lackluster sale last Friday at Sotheby’s had led some observers to speculate that the Impressionist and modern art market had been saturated and that Japanese interest had faded. But the Goetz sale, which offered a homogeneous group of French paintings and the cachet of a celebrated couple’s taste, attracted an international crowd of eager bidders, along with actress Claudette Colbert and other celebrities who had known film producer Goetz and his wife, the daughter of film executive Louis B. Mayer.

‘Sayonara,’ ‘Jane Eyre’

Goetz, who died in 1969, produced such films as “Sayonara,” “Jane Eyre” and “The Glenn Miller Story.” The couple acquired most of their collection in the 1940s and displayed it in their Holmby Hills home, where they often entertained actors and studio executives.

After Edith Mayer Goetz’s death in June, the couple’s daughters, Judith Shepherd of Beverly Hills and Barbara Windom of Malibu, retained a few pieces from the collection and consigned the rest to Christie’s.

Throughout the Monday night sale, auctioneer Burge seemed to be having the time of his life, cheerfully wheedling ever-higher prices from clients. They snapped up all 28 pieces, often paying far more than pre-sale estimates.

“Little Dancer at Age 14,” Edgar Degas’ bronze sculpture of a ballet dancer, sold to a private European collector for $10.2 million, slightly higher than its high estimate of $10 million and barely clearing the former record of $10.1 million for a Degas sculpture.

One of 27 Casts

The 38 1/2-inch-tall figure, wearing a muslin tutu and a satin hair ribbon, is one of 27 casts made posthumously from an 1879-81 wax sculpture. Other casts of the young dancer are in the collections of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Gallery in Washington.

“After the Meal,” Pierre Bonnard’s large painting of a woman clearing a table, brought $7.5 million, doubling the artist’s record of $3.8 million. A floral still life by Henri Fantin-Latour sold for $3.1 million, significantly more than his former record of $2.3 million. An Impressionistic landscape by Alfred Sisley fetched $3.6 million, soaring past the record $1.4 million paid last May for a Sisley.

A second Picasso, a portrait of the artist’s 4-year-old son dressed as a harlequin, sold for $5.2 million, slightly more than the low end of its estimate.

Friday night at Sotheby’s, a painting by Amedeo Modigliani, valued at about $2 million, failed to find a buyer, but the Goetz Modigliani, a portrait of Lunia Czechowska, fetched $3.8 million.

Performed at Higher Level

Michael Findlay, head of Christie’s Impressionist and modern art department, told reporters that the sale had followed a general trajectory of predicted prices but that almost all the works had performed at a higher level than auction house officials expected.

There were surprises, however. A group of 12 watercolor illustrations by Marie Laurencin zoomed up to $1.1 million, after being valued at $250,000 to $350,000.

A painting of a bellboy by Chaim Soutine fetched $715,000 instead of the predicted price of $350,000 to $450,000.

“Olive Trees in Provence,” a small landscape by Andre Derain, estimated at $50,000 to $70,000, finally sold to a telephone bidder at $143,000.

Trying to account for the evening’s spectacular success, Burge said the quality and cohesion of the collection was largely responsible.

“This is not a collection that was put together just to make money. There’s a clear level of taste that runs through the collection. The art takes a certain direction, and that happens to be a very popular direction at the moment,” he said.

The only paintings to sell for more than the Picasso sold Monday are Vincent van Gogh’s “Irises,” which sold for $53.9 million in November, 1987, and Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” which sold for $39.9 million a few months earlier.