U.S. Casino Magnate Nabs Another Christie's Gem

For the second night in a row casino magnate Steve Wynn bought the most expensive painting on the block, paying $17.4 million on Wednesday for a Cezanne self-portrait at the Christie’s Impressionist and modern art auction.

Wynn, shaping up as an unsteady art market’s personal savior after shelling out more than $40 million over two nights for a pair of paintings, was the winning bidder for ‘Portrait de Paul Cezanne,’ a circa-1895 work that carried a pre-sale estimate of $15 million to $20 million. The final price including commission was $17,367,500.

The casino owner and art collector said through Christie’s after the sale that the work would join the $23.5 million Renoir he bought at Sotheby’s, ‘Dans les roses (Madame Leon Clapisson),’ in Las Vegas. Wynn is slated to open a new casino, ‘Le Reve,’ and the works will hang there, he said.

The auction, rather smaller at 31 lots than the 45 to 60 pieces offered in recent seasons, took in a total of $59.7 million, including Christie’s commissions, below the pre-sale estimate of $63.7 million to $90 million.

Eighty-one percent of the lots were sold, a slightly stronger result than rival Sotheby’s sale on Tuesday.

Christie’s’ honorary chairman and the evening’s auctioneer, Christopher Burge, said that ‘all in all there was very solid bidding throughout the evening,’ although he conceded ‘there were some ups and downs.’

One of those was undoubtedly Giacometti’s multi-figure sculpture ‘La clairiere,’ which carried the evening’s second-highest estimate at $8 million to $12 million but brought no bids beyond $7.2 million. A similar piece offered at Sotheby’s on Tuesday also went unsold.

But a Degas sculpture, ‘Petite danseuse de quatorze ans,’ fetched $10.3 million, at the center of its $8 million to $12 million estimate. Bought by the Richard Gray Gallery, it was the evening’s second most expensive work.

Other highlights included Mondrian’s ‘Composition in White, Blue, and Yellow,’ which sold for $8.1 million (estimate $6 million to $9 million), and another Giacometti sculpture, ‘Homme qui marche III,’ which went for $4.0 million, just beating its high estimate.

Burge said the last two nights’ sales indicated ‘confidence that you can sell works of art at any given time,’ adding ‘We’re extremely pleased with the results.’ Officials at both auction houses had an especially difficult time securing consignments this winter due to unease about impending war in Iraq and the unsteady economy.

The auctions continue next week with works by post-war and contemporary artists such as Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko hitting the block.

Published in: on May 10, 2003 at 3:15 am  Leave a Comment  
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