US$59m Cézanne from The Collection of S.I. Newhouse Leads Christie’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

Christie’s opened New York’s spring auction season with a robust Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale that realised a total of US$399m, far exceeding the low estimate of US$287.5m. Leading the sale was Cézanne’s still painting Bouilloire et fruits from 1888-1890, which sold for US$59.3m.

Several top lots of the sales, including Cézanne’s Bouilloire et fruits and Van Gogh’s Arbres dans le jardin de l’asile, came from the collection of the late American media mogul S.I. Newhouse who was known as one of the most important art collectors of the 20th century and well into the 21st. Five masterpieces from his estate accounted for US$100m, more than a quarter of the sale total. Part of his contemporary works, including Jeff Koons’ signature work Rabbit, will be offered at the auction house’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale on Wednesday.

The top lot of the sale fell to Paul Cézanne’s Bouilloire et fruits, a painting depicting still-life objects positioned on a table according to relationships Cézanne detected among their shapes, colours, and textures. It carried a pre-sale estimate in the region of US$40m and was guaranteed to sell with a third-party guarantee.

The auctioneer Adrien Meyer, Co-Chairman of Impressionist and Modern Art, opened the bidding at US$30m and drew bids from various telephone bidders, respectively represented by Max Carter (Head of Impressionist and Modern Art, New York), Jussi Pylkkänen (Global President), and Rebecca Wei (President, Christie’s Asia). The painting was hammered down at US$52m and sold for US$59.3m (premium included) to Wei’s client.

Vincent van Gogh’s Arbres dans le jardin de l’asile (1889) from the Newhouse collection, another guaranteed property at the sale, also sparked an intense bidding. The work depicts a garden path in the grounds of the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole where the artist had been a voluntary patient for over four months. Van Gogh had already painted many notable canvases during his stay at the converted monastery in Saint-Rémy, including his iconic work The Starry Night.

The bidding started at US$17m and was escalated into a bidding battle between Xin Li (Deputy Chairman, Christie’s Asia) and Capera Ryan (Deputy Chairman, Americas). The painting was hammered down at US$35m to Ryan’s client and sold for US$40m after premium, surpassing the pre-sale estimate of US$25m.

Modigliani’s sculpture Tête (1911-12) became the third top lot of the sale after it was hammered down at the low estimate of US$30m to Keith Gill (Head of Evening Sale)’s telephone bidder, who was likely to be the guarantor of the painting. The painting was sold for US$34.3m. Another Modigliani’s work offered at the sale, Lunia Czechowska (à la robe noire) from 1919, fetched US$25.2m, against its low estimate US$12m. It came from the estate of Drue Heinz, who was married to H.J. Heinz II of the Heinz food empire.

Top three lots

Paul Cézanne (1839-1906). Bouilloire et fruits

Lot no.: 18A
Painted in: 1888-1890
Size: 48.6 x 60 cm

  • Baron Denys Cochin, Paris.
  • Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (acquired from the above, 11 March 1902).
  • Paul Cassirer, Berlin (acquired from the above, 5 February 1903).
  • Hugo Cassirer, Berlin (acquired from the above).
  • Lotte Cassirer-Fürstenberg, Berlin (by descent from the above by 1933; on deposit at the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, from 1933 and until 1939; then on extended loan to the Municipal Art Gallery, Johannesburg, circa 1939-1952).
  • Justin K. Thannhauser, New York (acquired from the above, 1952).
  • Drs. Harry and Ruth Bakwin, New York (by 1955).
  • Michael Bakwin, Stockbridge, Massachusetts (by descent from the above; stolen in May 1978 and recovered in 1999); sale, Sotheby's, London, 7 December 1999, lot 31.
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.

Estimate on request (in the region of US$40m)
Hammer price: US52,000,000
Price realised: US$59,295,000

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890). Arbres dans le jardin de l'asile

Lot no.: 15A
Painted in: October 1889

  • Theo van Gogh, Paris (acquired from the artist).
  • Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, Paris (by descent from the above).
  • Johannes Hendricus de Bois, The Hague (acquired from the above, March 1909).
  • Fritz Meyer-Fierz, Zürich (probably acquired from the above, circa 1914).
  • Robert Franz Meyer, Zürich (by descent from the above, by 1917).
  • Galerien Thannhauser, Munich (acquired from the above, 10 July 1936).
  • Wildenstein et Cie., Paris (acquired from the above, 11 July 1936).
  • Mr. and Mrs. Anderson, London (acquired from the above).
  • George Embiricos, Lausanne (by 1964).
  • Gagosian Gallery, New York (acquired from the above).
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner, 10 June 2004.

Estimate on request (US$25m)
Hammer price: US$35,000,000
Price realised: US$40,000,000

Amedeo Modigliani. Tête

Lot no.: 31A
Carved in: circa 1911-1912
Height: 51cm

  • Private collection, Paris.
  • Anon. sale, Maître E. Ader, Palais Galliera, Paris, 12 December 1962, lot 18.
  • Private collection, France.
  • Galerie Beyeler, Basel (acquired from the above, 1964).
  • Sir Edward and Lady Hulton, London (acquired from the above, 20 October 1964).
  • Marlborough Gallery, London (acquired from the above, 1981).
  • Private collection, Switzerland (acquired from the above, 1981 and until 2010).
  • Thomas Gibson Fine Art, Ltd., London.
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2010.

Estimate: US$30,000,000-40,000,000
Hammer price: US$30,000,000
Price realised: US$34,325,000

Sale details
Auction house: Christie’s New York
Sale: Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale
Date: 13 May 2019
Lots offered: 64
Unsold: 10
Sold: 54
Sold by lots: 84%
Sale total: US$399,041,000