PARIS—Several of the month’s top prices were attained at the Aguttes sale of ten works from the collection of André Lefèvre, which earned €21.8 million, or $32 million (estimate: $17/25 million. Lefèvre, a banker who started collecting in the 1920s, built a high-powered trove of 300 works by leading 20th-century artists. His collection was shown after his death at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, in 1964, and approximately 30 works were donated to the State; the rest were offered at four then-record-breaking sales in Paris from 1964-67.
Lefèvre had no direct heir; the ten works offered by Aguttes were, in fact, bought back at auction by his nephews, then stored in a bank vault for safe keeping—and apparently forgotten until last July, when the bank, which was going out of business, advised its clients to recover their property.
Joan Miró’s Blue Star, 1927, led the Aguttes sale with a price of €11.6 million or $16.6 million (estimate: €5/7 million), an auction record for Miró, who had declared this an unusual work for its combination of cosmic signs and stylized human figures. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, unsuccessfully sought permission to include the painting in its Miró exhibition, titled “Magnetic Fields,” in 1972.
Miró’s L’oiseau, 1926, followed on a double-estimate €6.2 million ($8.9 million). There was also an auction record for Henri Laurens: €607,000 for his 1917 gouache-and-paper collage L’étang-la-ville: halte (estimate: €70,000/80,000). Juan Gris’ Harlequin with Guitar, 1918, posted €2.17 million ($3.1 million), but a youthful Pablo Picasso watercolor, L’Absinthe—Le poète Cornuty, 1902-3, remained unsold against an estimate of €1.5/2.5 million—not helped by the catalogue’s failure to provide any information whatsoever about the long-forgotten “poet” portrayed.