NEW YORK, NOV. 11 -- With the $53.9 million paid for Vincent van Gogh's "Irises" leading the way, Sotheby's tonight established the highest single-session total in auction history at $110,002,000.
The previous record was established last May at Sotheby's when $63,596,595 changed hands.
"It's obvious that the art market is alive and well," said Sotheby's chairman and auctioneer John Marion after the tumultuous sale.
Although other individual results were dwarfed by the van Gogh bid, there were impressive showings among the 74 other works that sold, including 12 that went for prices of more than $1 million. However, 25 works failed to find buyers, among them paintings by Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet and Paul Ce'zanne.
George Braque's "Le Violon," the Phillips Collection's cubist jewel, was sold for $3.3 million to an unidentified American collector in a relatively sluggish sale. Bidding started at $1 million and jogged slowly upward in $100,000 increments.
The painting was always called "Music" at the Phillips, but the title was amended for tonight's sale, reflecting recent scholarship in the field. "It was probably a generic title," commented Sotheby's specialist John Tancock, "and was also referred to as 'Music, the Still Life and Violin.' "
The work ranks as a masterpiece of synthetic Cubism, the movement founded by Picasso and Braque. It has been at the Phillips since 1953, when it was bequeathed to Duncan Phillips by Catherine S. Dreier, the avant-garde art patron and collector.
Monet's "The Flower Gardens" sold for $5.83 million -- the second-highest lot of the evening -- breaking the record for the artist set just 24 hours before at Christie's. Another Monet, "Antibes, Rue du Plateau Notre-Dame," brought $2.5 million.
A third Monet, "Large Group of Chrysanthemums," sold to a European collector for $2.42 million. As the bidding hovered at $1.9 million, Marion asserted, "Why don't you say two?" Laughter and a higher bid followed.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir's "Head of a Young Girl," consigned by the Art Institute of Chicago, realized $2.53 million and went to a Japanese dealer.
Another Art Institute consignment made a disappointing showing: Ce'zanne's "Arbres et Maisons au Bord de l'Eau," which was bought in -- withdrawn from the sale -- when bidding stopped at $1.85 million.
An important cubist work, Juan Gris' "The Bullfighter," sold for $1.98 million. It was a late entry in the sale and was consigned by Mr. and Mrs. Jack Hemingway of Ketchum, Idaho. Jack Hemingway is the oldest of Ernest Hemingway's sons and inherited the painting from his father's widow Mary when she died last year. "I remember it from early childhood," he said after the sale. "It was in my father's and stepmother Pauline's Paris apartment. It's such an important painting I couldn't afford to keep it. The insurance was too much. That's my patrimony."
The painting, which depicts fragmented Spanish bullfight posters and a matador's face, was used as the color frontispiece of the first edition of "Death in the Afternoon," Ernest Hemingway's homage to the sport.
Max Beckmann's expressionist "Self-Portrait with Sailor Cap" realized a record $1.54 million. In the picture, the artist strikes a belligerent pose, clamping down on a thin cigar, his right arm bent at the elbow as if ready to bash unwanted visitors.
The last painting of the evening, Salvador Dali's "The Battle of Petuan," sold for $2.42 million. Looking more like a movie set than a painting, the surrealist picture shows the routing of Moroccan troops by the Spanish in 1860. Dali and his wife Gala lead the charge on prancing stallions.
Other lots for which prices exceeded $1 million included two pastels by Edgar Degas and works by Picasso and Henri Matisse.