A large wood sculpture by Henry Moore sold here tonight at Sotheby's for $1,150,000, establishing two record prices: for a work of sculpture and for a work by a living artist, 84-year-old Henry Moore, considered to be the greatest living sculptor.
(The previous record for a sculpture, $750,000, was set in May 1974 at Sotheby's in New York for a Brancussi, "La Negresse Blond II." The previous record for a sculpture by a living artist was $835,800, paid at Christie's in London in March 1982 for Salvador Dali's "Ma Mere Ma Mere.")
"Reclining Figure," a unique wood sculpture executed in 1946, depicting, as the title indicates, a figure in a lounging position, measuring more than six feet across, was bought by Thomas Gibson Fine Art of London, reportedly for a client of the gallery.
Most of Moore's output, spanning several decades, has been executed in bronze, in limited series, which makes this one, in wood and uncopied, rare and important. A large bronze monument by the sculptor stands outside the entrance to the East Building of the National Gallery of Art. The Hirshhorn owns several Moore sculptures.
The Moore was the key lot of the important evening sale of an eclectic group of pictures spanning roughly 1870 to 1970 and covering virtually every movement during that period.
The sale, which began moments after a thunderstorm, started with a special session devoted to 40 paintings from a French collection. The total for the entire evening amounted to $9,861,500, with only 20 lots failing to sell.
The other high prices of the sale were primarily paid for blue-chip Impressionist pictures.
"Young Woman With a Chignon," painted by Pierre Auguste Rodin in 1880, fetched $410,000. "Seated Nude Woman Arranging Her Hair," by Pablo Picasso in 1905, fetched $390,000. Another Picasso, titled "Still Life With Bottle and Packet of Tobacco," painted in 192l, brought a $375,0000 bid.
A Tokyo dealer went home with Claude Monet's "The Road to Vetheuil," painted in 1878, for which he paid $290,000. A masterful Edgar Degas, "Seated Dancer Tying Her Slipper," painted circa 1880, was bought for $275,000.
Among the more than 800 people in the elegant main sales room and an overflow crowd watching the sale over closed-circuit televisions in adjacent rooms, there was considera- ble anticipation, but relatively little excitement. Bidders came to the sale from four continents, Australia, Asis, Europe and North America.
The Moore sculpture, positioned on a stage in front of the sales room and drematically lit, provoked the only excitement of the three-hour auction. Bidding for the Moore started at $500,000, inched up slowly from a seemingly wary crowd, and ended wuth a brief round of applause when Gibson nodded for the selling price.
David Nash, director of fine arts at Sotheby's said,"I didn't know there were so many people with money left today. I'd say the market is not recession-proof, but resilient for high quality work.
"I was surprised at the number of French, Swiss and other European bidders", added Nash, a Britisher "We seem to have a really broad rep- resentation at this sale- from every place except the Falkland Islands."