Record-Breaking Art Auction Continues

From United Press International

Christie's gallery weighed into a $500-million art auction marathon Wednesday night with a major sale of Impressionist and modern art, including a top Hollywood collection.

The sale of 93 paintings and sculptures included eight paintings from the estate of film producer Hal B. Wallis. One of them, an Edgar Degas pastel of ballet dancers, "On the Scene," carried a pre-sale price estimate of $7 million. Two oils by Claude Monet offered Wednesday night also carried the same pre-sale value.

The current bull market for fine art charged ahead Tuesday with a $204.8-million sale at Sotheby's gallery that saw Pablo Picasso's 1901 self-portrait, "Yo Picasso," sold to an unidentified bidder for $47.85 million.

Tops Artist's Record

That was the second-highest price ever paid for an artwork at auction, exceeded only by $53.9 million for Vincent van Gogh's "Irises" in 1987, and almost $10 million more than the old auction record for Picasso.

As an indication of the market's strength, the pre-sale estimate by Sotheby's experts for the Picasso was $15 million to $20 million. The paintings were consigned to sale by hospital management tycoon Wendell Cherry of Louisville, Ky., who purchased it at Sotheby's in 1981 for $5.6 million.

All together, 44 paintings exceeded $1 million each at Sotheby's, including Paul Gauguin's Tahitian landscape, "Mata Mua," $24.2 million, a record for the artist, and Paul Cezanne's "Jug and Fruit on a Table," $11.5 million, also a record for the artist.

The Gauguin was purchased by the pre-eminent Swiss collector, Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, who already shared ownership in the canvas with Bolivian tin heir Jaime Ortiz-Patino. They acquired the Gauguin in 1984 for $3.8 million.

Ortiz-Patino sold eight paintings for $67.8 million, about $18 million more than the pre-sale estimate.

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