PARIS—A rare stone sculpture of a head by Amedeo Modigliani sold for €43.2million ($52.6million) in the evening sale of Impressionist and modern art at Christie’s Paris on June 14, a world record for a work by the artist and a record for the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction in France. The sculpture, Tête, ca. 1910–12, sold for more than seven times its estimate of €4million/6million.
Tête has swept-back hair and the thin, elongated face typical of the artist’s work, and was the centerpiece of a group of 24 works from the collection of Gaston Lévy, cofounder of the Monoprix supermarket chain in France. Lévy, who died in 1977, was a passionate collector of Impressionist and modern art. Modigliani sculptures rarely come to market. Only 10 of the 27 sculptures produced during his lifetime are in private collections; the rest are in museums. The Modigliani accounted for most of the €48.8million ($59.5million) sale total. Of 130 lots offered, 107, or 82 percent, were sold. By value the auction was 82 percent sold.
Tête was sold to an anonymous phone buyer after more than 10 minutes of vigorous competition among 20 bidders. The previous record for a work by Modigliani at auction is $31.4million, paid for a portrait of the artist’s lover and muse Jeanne Hébuterne at Sotheby’s New York in November 2004. The previous record for one of the artist’s sculptures was $3.5million, paid for a female head, Tête de femme (au chignon), 1911–12, at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg (now Phillips, de Pury & Company), New York, in November 2001. The record for the most expensive work sold at auction in France had been held by Les Coucous, 1911, a still life by Henri Matisse, which fetched €35.9million ($46.3million) at the sale of the collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé at Christie’s Paris in February 2009 (ANL, 3/3/09).
The second-highest-selling lot in the recent Paris sale was Woman with a Tree, 1917, an abstract painting by Alberto Magnelli, which sold for €673,000 ($821,060) on an estimate of €300,000/500,000. Voiliers dans le bassin de Deauville et drapeau, ca. 1933, a painting by Raoul Dufy, sold for €343,000 ($418,460), within its estimate of €300,000/400,000. Auguste Rodin’s The Kiss (Reduction no. 3), a 155⁄8-inch-high version of the artist’s famous 1886 bronze cast between 1910 and 1918, sold for €277,000 ($337,940), surpassing its estimate of €150,000/200,000.
Bouquet de roses, a painting by Auguste Renoir, sold for €259,000 ($315,980), within its estimate of €180,000/280,000, and Un coin du mur (effet de nuit), 1881, an oil by Paul Gauguin, fetched €253,000 ($308,660), doubling its estimate of €80,000/120,000. René Magritte’s painting La Malédiction, 1936, sold for €241,000 ($294,020), within its €200,000/300,000 estimate. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s La croisée des chemins, 1883, was sold for €241,000 ($294,020) against an estimate of €200,000/300,000. Sonia Delaunay’s Mosaïque horizontale, conceived in 1954 and made in an edition of eight in 2003 (after the artist’s death, in 1979), more than doubled its estimate of €50,000/70,000 to sell for €187,000 ($228,140). Aristide Maillol’s bronze La Petite Nuit, conceived between 1902 and 1909 and cast before 1944, sold for €157,000 ($191,540), several times its estimate of €20,000/30,000.