Christie’s Robust 20th Century Art Evening Sale Raised US$481m, Powered by Picasso’s US$103m Portrait of His Young Lover

Christie’s rebranded 20th Century Evening Sale in New York last night tallied US$481m, with a strong 98% sell-through rate. The marquee event was spearheaded by a Picasso’s painting that was sold for US$103m to become the star lot of the entire week’s blockbuster evening sales in New York, also the first work to crack the US$100m benchmark since the pandemic.

Continuing the winning streak in the Basquiat showdown, Christie's robust sales edged out the house's major rival Sotheby's in the equivalent sale series this season.

Picasso’s Femme assise près d'une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse) was hammered for US$90m 


Similar to the 21st Century Evening Sale two nights ago, the Rockefeller saleroom had yet to greet any floor bidders, but the auction house provided 360-degree livestream to enhance the audience’s experience.

All in all, the 90-lot 20th century and 21st century evening sales at Christie’s brought in for the house a total of US$690m, outperforming its rival Sotheby’s three-sale marathon the night before, with 77 modern and contemporary artworks that raked in US$597m.


The top three lots in New York marquee art auctions this season are:

  1. Pablo Picasso, Femme assise près d'une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse) | Price realized: US$103,410,000 | Christie’s 20th Century Evening Sale
  2. Jean-Michel Basquiat, In This Case | Price realized: US$93,105,000 | Christie’s 21st Century Evening Sale
  3. Claude Monet, Le Bassin aux Nymphéas | Price realized: US$70,353,000 | Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale


Lot 15 | Pablo Picasso, Femme assise près d'une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse), 1932

Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 146 x 114 cm
Provenance: (Organized by The Value)

  • Estate of the artist
  • Marina Picasso, Paris (by descent from the above)
  • Galerie Jan Krugier, New York (acquired from the above)
  • Stephen Hahn, New York (acquired from the above,1985)
  • Anon. sale, Christie’s, New York, 14 May 1997, lot 50
  • Private collection (acquired at the above sale)
  • Private collection, Europe (acquired from the above); sale, Sotheby’s, London, February 5, 2013, lot 12 (price realized: £28,601,250 / US$44,746,656)
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate on request (expected to be in the region of US$55,000,000)
Hammer price: US$90,000,000
Price realized: US$103,410,000


As soon as auctioneer Adrien Meyer opened the proceedings for the premium lot by Picasso at US$45m, the 19-minute bidding began with three interested bidders from London and New York. The price was pushed up to US$63m in steady US$1m increments until the New York Impressionist & Modern Art department’s Max Carter (Head of Department) joined the bidding battle. From this point onwards, Carter’s only opponent was his co-worker from the same department and standing across the room, Vanessa Fusco (Head of Sales).

In the end, after over 30 protracted bids, it was Fusco who placed the victorious bid of US$90m, and won the prized lot for her client, with the paddle number 1904. After fees, the painting was sold for US$103.4m, a 131% jump from when it last changed hands in 2013 for £28.6m (US$44.7m). The room was filled with a round of applause before moving on to the next lot. 

Vanessa Fusco (left) and Max Carter (right) in the Rockefeller saleroom vied for the present painting by Picasso

Fusco won the present lot for her client when the hammer was lowered at US$90m


The present work by Picasso was executed in 1932, five years after the artist’s encounter with Marie-Thérèse, his lover and muse. Since then, Marie-Thérèse’s image began making more constant presence in the painter’s oeuvre - initially coded and rather concealed, eventually evolved to more euphoric takes like in the present work.

The young lover of Picasso is portrayed in a statuesque form and her recognizable profile is given a prominent sculptural quality. Those are contrasted with a sensuous and soft body, just like how her fiery red torso juxtaposes with the lilac and sky blue tone of the canvas. 

Marie-Thérèse Walter, who appeared in Picasso's work a lot

Closer look at the present work

Lot 8 | Claude Monet, Waterloo Bridge, effet de brouillard, 1899-1903

Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 65.7 x 100.2 cm

  • Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (acquired from the artist, June 7, 1904)
  • Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York (acquired from the above, December 14, 1904)
  • Amy Lowell, Boston (acquired from the above, February 4, 1905)
  • Elizabeth and William Lowell Putnam, Boston (by descent from the above).
  • Katharine and Harvey H. Bundy, Boston (by descent from the above, circa 1936); sale, Christie's, New York, October 31, 1978, lot 12
  • Anon. sale, Christie's, London, June 30, 1980, lot 21
  • International Art Center, Geneva (acquired at the above sale)
  • Private collection, Japan (acquired from the above, circa 1982)
  • Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, May 11, 1999, lot 119
  • Private collection (acquired at the above sale)
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate on request (expected to be in the region of US$35,000,000)
Hammer price: US$42,000,000
Price realized: US$48,450,000


The monumental Waterloo Bridge, effet de brouillard by Monet stepped into second place of the evening. The auctioneer opened the bidding at US$20m and saw a cross-continent bidding war among two specialists in London and one in New York. A total of 17 bids propelled the painting to the US$42m hammer price, offered by a phone client with New York-based Maria Los (Head of Client Advisory Americas).

Last went public at auction more than two decades ago, also in New York, the painting was sold for almost US$9.4m and last night, US$48.5m after premium.

Claude Monet (1840-1926)

Waterloo Bridge and the River Thames 


The Waterloo Bridge paintings are some of the most important works in Monet’s London Series, which he began in 1899. Intrigued by how the vistas of London change caused by fog, city smoke, and weather, Monet would spend his early mornings painting the bridge from his room at Savoy Hotel. The present lot is one of the 41 Waterloo Bridge paintings, with most of them housed in major museums, such as the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and the Denver Art Museum. 

Veiled by violet-tinted fog, the factory-lined south bank and beyond is given a mysterious and iridescent blue hue with hints of pink accentuating the principal subject of the bridge.

Lot 10 | Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1970

Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 172.7 x 137.2 cm
Provenance: (organized by The Value)

  • Estate of the artist
  • Marlborough Gallery, Inc., New York
  • Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, New York, 1971
  • Her sale; Sotheby's, New York, November 10, 2014, lot 6 (price realized: US$39,915,000)
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate on request (expected to be in the region of US$40,000,000)
Hammer price: US$33,000,000
Price realized: US$38,145,000


Bidding of the present lot began at US$28m and after two absentee bids from the auctioneer, Alex Rotter (Chairman of 20th & 21st Century Art) stepped in with his hammer bid of US$33m and the work was seemingly sold to its guarantor, for a little over US$38m after fees, falling shy of the US$40m mark when it was last sold at a Sotheby’s New York sale in 2014.

The evening's third place, the 1970 canvas by Rothko had remained in the renowned Mellon Collection for nearly half a century. The dark green fields channel much daunting visions that are stretched out to the blue depths to create a cavernous sense of space. The overall mournful monochromatic tones run through much of his works executed in the same period.

Mark Rothko (1903-1970)

Lot 29 | Vincent van Gogh, Le pont de Trinquetaille, 1888

Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 146 x 114 cm
Provenance: (organized by The Value)

  • Theo van Gogh, Paris (acquired from the artist, August 13, 1888)
  • Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, Amsterdam (by descent from the above)
  • Paul Cassirer, Berlin (acquired from the above, February 17, 1906)
  • Galerie H.O. Miethke, Vienna (1906)
  • Mr. and Mrs. Josef Redlich, Vienna (by 1909)
  • (possibly) Galerie Hodebert, Paris
  • Galerie Etienne Bignou, Paris
  • Elizabeth Russe Workman, London (by 1923)
  • The Lefevre Gallery (Alex. Reid & Lefevre, Ltd.), London and M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York (June 1928)
  • Anna Eugenia La Chapelle Clark, New York (acquired from the above, December 11, 1928)
  • M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York (acquired from the above, November 21,1949)
  • Mr. and Mrs. André Meyer, New York (acquired from the above, November 1949); sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, October 22, 1980, lot 27
  • Akram Ojjeh, Paris (acquired at the above sale); sale, Christie's, New York, November 8, 1999, lot 112
  • Private collection, Europe (acquired at the above sale); sale, Christie’s, New York, November 3, 2004, lot 41 (price realized: US$11,207,500)
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: US$25,000,000 - 35,000,000
Hammer price: US$34,000,000
Price realized: US$37,400,000


The present lot by Van Gogh, last went on the auction block 17 years ago when it was sold for US$11.2m, was backed by a third-party guarantee in last night’s sale, to ensure it would sell.

Bidding of the present lot started at US$26m and the hammer was down at US$34m. It was Conor Jordan (Deputy Chairman of Impressionist and Modern Department) who acquired the work for his phone bidder with the paddle number 1730. The price with buyer's premium would have been US$39.3m, though after factoring in the financial arrangements, the final price was adjusted to US$37.4m.

Jordan acquired the present lot for his phone bidder with the paddle number 1730


The present work was painted in 1888, four months after Van Gogh’s arrival at Arles. The tranquil painting captures the scene of the suburb Trinquetaille across the Rhône River and the local landmarks are basked in the warm and harmonious hues of yellow, lime and hints of blue.

The 15 months he spent in the South of France marked a pivotal period for the artist, as he left behind the urban life in Paris and his artistic output became more bold and expressive.  

There were two other lots that went past the US$200m mark:

Lot 19 | Piet Mondrian, Composition: No. II, With Yellow, Red and Blue, 1927

Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 50.5 x 35.2 cm

  • Private collection, The Netherlands
  • Sam van Deventer, The Hague
  • Galerie Grosshennig, Düsseldorf
  • Galerie Nathan, Zürich; Walter Feilchenfeldt, Zürich and Paul Cassirer, Amsterdam (acquired from the above, 1959)
  • Prof. Hugo Krayenbühl, Zollikon (acquired from the above, 1959); sale, Christie's, New York, May 19, 1981, lot 350
  • Ivor Braka, London (1981)
  • Galerie Beyeler, Basel (acquired from the above, May 1987)
  • Private collection, Nagoya (acquired from the above, July 15, 1987)
  • Citibank, Geneva; sale, Sotheby's, New York, May 11, 1993, lot 32
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate on request (expected to be in the region of US$25,000,000)
Hammer price: US$24,000,000
Price realized: US$26,122,500


Lot 18 | Roy Lichtenstein, Interior: Perfect Pitcher, 1994

Oil and Magna on canvas
Dimensions: 306.1 x 492.8 cm

  • The artist
  • The Estate of Roy Lichtenstein, New York
  • Private collection, New York, 2002

Estimate: US$20,000,000 - 30,000,000
Hammer price: US$19,500,000
Price realized: US$21,500,000

Auction Summary:

Auction house: Christie’s New York
Sale: 20th Century Evening Sale
Date: May 13, 2021
Lots offered: 50
Sold: 49
Unsold: 1
Sale rate: 98%
Sale total: US$481,114,000