Records were set Thursday for works by Gauguin, Modigliani and Mondrian as Sotheby's opened its two-day auction of impressionist and modern art.
The day's highlight, as expected, was Paul Gauguin's vibrant 1899 oil-on-canvas "Maternite (II)," which fetched $39.2 million from a buyer whose identity was not immediately revealed.
Amedeo Modigliani's monumental portrait of his great love and muse, "Jeanne Hebuterne (devant une porte)," brought $31.4 million, while Piet Mondrian's modernist work "New York 1941 / Boogie Woogie" sold for $21 million, more than doubling the old record for one of his works.
In all, the day's sale of 48 paintings and sculptures, among 61 lots on offer, took in $194.3 million, including Sotheby's commission, the best result for an impressionist and modern auction since 1990.
The sale's major casualty was Wassili Kandinsky's "Sketch for Deluge II," estimated at $20 million to $30 million. No bids beyond $16.5 million could be elicited from the packed salesroom.
David Norman, Sotheby's co-chairman of impressionist and modern art, said the auction house was happy to own the work. "We knew full well when we guaranteed it that we might own it," he said after the sale. Guarantees are confidential minimum payments promised to the consignor regardless of whether a work sells; they have become increasingly common practice in recent seasons.
"We can be patient," Norman added, noting that the Modigliani that went for more than $31 million couldn't even attract $600,000 when it was offered in 1979-1980. "This work's time will come, too," he said.
Another record fell Thursday when Henry Moore's large-scale "Three-Piece Reclining Figure: Draped" sold for $8.4 million, the most ever for one of his sculptures. And the only version in private hands of Constantin Brancusi's famous limestone piece "The Kiss" went for $8.97 million.
The Sotheby's auction came a day after a similar sale at rival Christie's, where a painting from Claude Monet's iconic series on London's House of Parliament sold for $20.1 million.