NEW YORK, NOV. 14 -- In an evening marked by spectacular success and equally spectacular failure, Christie's racked up $92.3 million in sales of impressionist and modern art. Although 32 of the 47 artworks offered found buyers, 15 paintings sold for below their lowest estimates, further indicating that the world market for these pricey objects has undergone an unmistakable correction downward.

While the evening's top-rated painting, van Gogh's late still life "Vase With Cornflowers and Poppies," fizzled and failed to sell at all, another van Gogh, this one a magnificent drawing, set a world record price for any work in that medium.

The drawing, "Garden of Flowers," executed in quill, reed pen and pencil, sold to New York art dealer William Acquavella for $8.36 million, far above estimates and a record for any drawing at auction. The previous high was set at Christie's London in July 1984, when Raphael's "Study of a Man's Head and Hands" sold for $4.77 million in the landmark Chatsworth sale.

"Flowers," drawn in Arles in August 1888 (four months before van Gogh mutilated his right ear following a drunken fight with Gauguin), is a rhythmic explosion of jots, slashes and curls, each mark appearing to run in opposite directions. The unusually large 24-by-19 1/4-inch image of the little cottage garden was used as a template for one of van Gogh's major oil paintings, "Garden Behind a House."

"Perhaps we floundered a bit with the estimate {$12 to $16 million}," commented chief auctioneer Christopher Burge about the spurned van Gogh. It barely mustered a $9.5 million bid, below the minimum price for sale. "I don't have the faintest idea why the picture didn't sell," Burge said. "Yes, it's a correction in the market but we still came out with the best single session of the week."

A big surprise tonight -- one of the many in this topsy-turvy art market -- was the reemergence of American buyers.

According to Christie's, North American buyers accounted for 39 percent of the sale prices, edged out by European buyers at 40 percent and the Japanese at 21 percent. In previous sales this week, the Japanese have dominated, trailed by Europeans. Americans were not major players.

Christie's figures, however, are somewhat misleading. The auction house identified the buyer of Claude Monet's "Waterlilies and Reflections of a Willow Tree" as "American trade." However, Gallery Urban, the buyer, which has a new showroom practically next door to Christie's on Park Avenue, is owned by a Japanese dealer with additional branches in Paris, Tokyo and Nagoya, Japan.

Gallery Urban also purchased a Pissarro oil for $2.2 million and a Degas pastel of dancers for $2.64 million.

A big buyer tonight was Japanese hotel magnate Osamu Nakata, president of Diamond Resort Corp. Nakata purchased two major Miros, including "Ladders Cross the Sky in a Wheel of Fire" for $7.15 million, the third highest lot of the evening.

One of the strangest paintings offered, Marc Chagall's acid-colored "The Drunkard," realized $5.5 million, against the pre-sale estimate of $6 to $8 million. Painted when the artist first came to Paris in 1911, the picture is a wild mixture of cubist impressions and the artist's memories of village life in Russia. A dark-suited man, with his head detached, holds a whiskey bottle in one hand while another bottle hovers in front of his lips. He is red-eyed and mystified. A two-headed red chicken parades on a plate at the cafe table while a menacing kitchen knife crosses the drunkard's legs. The painting, according to the catalogue entry, was a big hit at the 1912 Salon des Independents show in Paris.

Fernand Leger's cubist puzzle, "The Houses Beneath the Trees" from 1913, fetched $9.9 million, the top price of the evening, though a million dollars shy of its low estimate. A similar Leger sold in London last December for just under $14 million.

Of the six Picassos offered, the standout was a 1932 portrait of his young mistress, Marie-Therese Walter, "Woman Resting Before a Mirror." The steamy painting proved to be quite a shock for Picasso's wife, Olga, who first saw it at the artist's gallery opening in June of that year. Marie-Therese sits cross-legged and partially nude on an armchair, her image reflected in ghostly white lines on the mirror behind her. Her mouth is slightly open as if lost in a sensual dream.

It was the big bargain of the evening, selling for $5.5 million. It had been estimated at $7 million to $10 million.