Christie's auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen soliciting bids on Picasso's "Fillette à la corbeille fleurie" at the May 9 Rockefeller collection evening sale (all images courtesy Christie's)

Christie’s auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen soliciting bids on Picasso’s “Fillette à la Corbeille Fleurie” at the May 8 Rockefeller collection evening sale (all images courtesy Christie’s)

Last night, Christie’s held its first of two blockbuster evening sales of works from the collection of the late billionaire banker David Rockefeller and his wife Peggy, bringing in a whopping $646.1 million.

Pablo Picasso, “Fillette à la corbeille fleurie” (1905), oil on canvas, 60 7/8 x 26 in, pre-sale estimate in the region of $100 million; price realized: $115,000,000

The sale, whose 44 lots all found buyers, set new auction records for Henri Matisse and Claude Monet. The Rose period Pablo Picasso painting “Fillette à la Corbeille Fleurie” (1905) became the artist’s second-highest auction result, hammering down at $115 million (including buyer’s premium). The painting was first acquired by Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo in 1905 and came into the Rockefeller collection in 1968. The first lot of the sale, a small still life by Picasso — “Pomme” (1914) — also exceeded expectations, selling for just under $4 million (including buyer’s premium).

Monet’s “Nymphéas en Fleur” (ca 1914–17), from the artist’s famous series of paintings depicting the waterlilies at his home in Giverny, sold for $84.7 million (with the premium) following a heated bidding war. Matisse’s “Odalisque Souchée aux Magnolias” (1923), sold for $80.8 million (with premium).

In addition to the marquee works by Picasso, Monet, and Matisse, the sale set new auction records for Giorgio Morandi, Odilon Redon, Eugène Delacroix, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, and Armand Séguin (for a superb four-panel painted screen from circa 1892–93 that sold for $7.7 million). Despite not breaking any individual records, works by Juan Gris, Edouard Manet, Paul Gauguin (including his 1888 seascape “La Vague“), Georges Seurat, Paul Signac, and Joan Miró also fetched eight-figure sums.

Claude Monet, “Nymphéas en Fleur” (ca 1914–17), oil on canvas, 63 3/8 x 71 1/8 in, pre-sale estimate in the region of $50 million; price realized: $84,687,500

“It is challenging to express in words the many emotions our family [are] feeling as we celebrate the opening night of this sale week devoted [to] the Peggy and David Rockefeller collection — but chief among them is pride and gratitude,” David Rockefeller Jr. said in a statement after Tuesday night’s sale. “We are now very well on our way to achieving the goal our parents set for their philanthropic legacy, and we are eagerly looking forward to what the rest of this historic week will bring.”

The Rockefeller sales, which continue today, tonight and online, have been the subject of a major publicity push by Christie’s on a par with last year’s blockbuster “Salvator Mundi” auction. Tonight’s “Art of the Americas” sale doesn’t feature quite the same sky-high figures as last night’s auction, but its 41 lots include major works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Alexander Calder, Diego Rivera, Edward Hopper, Willem de Kooning, and others.

Henri Matisse, “Odalisque Couchée aux Magnolias” (1923), oil on canvas, 23 3/4 x 31 7/8 in, pre-sale estimate in the region of $70 million; price realized: $80,750,000

Paul Gauguin, “La Vague” (1888), oil on canvas, 23 7/8 x 28 7/8 in; pre-sale estimate in the region of $18 million, price realized: $35,187,500

Georges Seurat, “La Rade de Grandcamp” (1885), oil on canvas, 25 3/4 x 32 in, pre-sale estimate in the region of $40 million; price realized: $34,062,500

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, “Venise, Vue du Quai des Esclavons” (1845), oil on canvas, 18 3/4 x 32 1/4 in, pre-sale estimate $8,000,000–12,000,000; price realized: $9,009,844

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Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...

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