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NEW YORK, USA - An erotically-charged Picasso oil painting of his mistress alongside tulips and fruit sold Thursday for US$41.5-M on an otherwise anemic night for high-end art in New York.
"Nature morte aux tulipes," painted in 1932, was the star of Sotheby's Impressionist and modern art sale in Manhattan. The pre-sale estimate for the work had been between US$35-M and US$50-M.
The painting depicts the head of Marie-Therese Walter, who was Picasso's lover and famous muse, poised over a suggestive flower arrangement.
Its sale was one of the few bright spots for Sotheby's, with 30% of lots failing to sell and the total haul of the evening amounting to US$163-M — below the low end of the overall US$169-245-M estimate. This followed a similar performance at the Christie's auction on Wednesday.
Another of the Marie-Therese series offered by Sotheby's, "Femme a la fenetre (Marie-Therese)," sold for US$17.2-M, inside the US$15-20-M estimate.
Other successes included the US$12.1-M paid for "Champ de ble" by Claude Monet, well above the US$5-7-M estimate.
Paul Cezanne's "Femme nue debout" went for US$5.3-M, inside the estimate, and Henry Moore's sculpture "Two piece reclining figure No. 1" sold for US$4.7-M, at the high end of its estimate.
However, numerous works failed to find buyers, including Picasso's "Plant de tomate," estimated to sell for US$10-15-M, and the same artist's "Femme a la robe verte," which was listed at US$6-8-M. Cezanne's "La femme a l'hermine," which had been hoped to fetch between US$5-M and US$7-M, also flopped.
On Wednesday, Christie's in New York sold a Monet water lily painting for US$43.8-M and saw a painting by Wassily Kandinsky sell for an auction record of US$23-M. However, the auction overall was seen as relatively muted, with a third of works not selling.
Next week, the rival auction houses hold their contemporary art sales. - Agence France-Presse
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