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Monet, Degas sales may make history

Two large works by Claude Monet and Edgar Degas have been sold by a new gallery to a California collector in what may have been one of the highest-priced art transactions in Laguna’s history.

Several gallery owners and directors have expressed surprise at the pieces’ sales prices, which each sold for several million dollars according to Rohrer Fine Art co-owner Jim Carona.

He said that other pieces may have sold for more than $1 million in Laguna, but the sale is still a boon to the community.

“We’re very happy to be in Laguna, and the building we have there is just so beautiful,” he said. “We’re very happy to have made a sale like that so early, since we’ve only been open for a few months now.”

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The high-end gallery, which opened in September 2006, offers works from around the world created during the past two thousand years.

It’s co-owned by Carona, an art dealer, and Los Angeles curator Chip Tom, who operate in the space created by real estate developer and partner Charlie Rohrer.

The Craftsman-style bungalow has an outdoor fireplace to welcome visitors.

The gallery’s current collection includes works by Warhol, Rauschenberg, Tamayo, Zuniga and Toulouse Lautrec.

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Its sister gallery in Palm Desert, Heather James Art & Antiquities, has sold works by Picasso, van Gogh, Matisse, Renoir, Frida Kahlo and Lichtenstein.

The Monet piece, “Les Rosiers dans le Jardin de Montgeron,” is 24 by 32 ¼ inches, and was painted circa 1876.

The garden scene is a study for one of four panels that the artist made of a collector’s garden. The collector, Ernest Hoschede, later sold the oil painting at auction; it then passed through several hands before being purchased by a private collector.

The Degas, “Trois Danseuses,” is 25 ¾ by 25 and ¾, and was created around 1899. The pastel on paper spent time in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection before being de-accessioned and auctioned at Sotheby’s in 1986 to a private collector.

The piece was based on a set of three photographs that Degas took himself; another work created from the photographs, “En attendant l’entrée en scene,” is now in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

Local gallery owners and directors also see the sale as beneficial for the community.

“Obviously it’s great for Laguna, to have a very high end gallery here,” said Roberta Haltom, director of the Redfern Gallery, which specializes in American Impressionism with a focus on early California plein air art.

“Laguna’s always been known as an art community, and is obviously the center for the California plein air artists, who have come into their own in the last few years,” Haltom said. “It’s wonderful to have the addition of the European masters here as well.”

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“This is pretty exciting for the art market in Laguna Beach,” said Marion Cuddyer, owner of Marion Meyer Contemporary Art. Her gallery is adjacent to Rohrer Fine Art.

“I’m really thrilled,” she said. “We’re already really excited to have such a wonderful selection of art on the block, but if they continue to make sales like this, it’s good for all of us.”


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