Monet’s Le Grand Canal was sold for £23.7 million on a record-breaking night at Sotheby’s as 84 works of impressionist, surrealist and modernist art went under the hammer for a total of £170.3 million.
It was the highest amount ever spent at a single London auction, and brisk bidding meant all of the lots changed hands in less than two hours.
Le Grand Canal (1908), which has been on loan to the National Gallery for the past eight years, achieved the highest-ever price for one of Monet’s views of Venice. Five of his paintings were sold for a total of £55.74 million.
Monet painted Le Grand Canal during a three-month trip to Venice when he is considered to have been at the peak of his career. It demonstrates his unique ability to capture light and water on canvas.
In 1912, it was acquired by New Orleans sugar magnate Hunt Henderson, one of the most significant 20th century collectors from the American south.
Monet’s Poplars at Giverny (1887) was up for auction for the first time, having once been part of the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago. It went for £10.8m.
In addition, Sotherby’s auctioned works by Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Auguste Rodin and Henri Matisse.
One of Matisse’s final pieces, Odalisque In A Moorish Chair (1942), which depicts the great-grand daughter of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, sold for £15.8 million. Its former owner bought the painting at auction in 2004 for £6.6 million.
— Sotheby’s (@Sothebys) February 3, 2015
The big surprise of the night was a self-portrait by Russian abstract artist Kazimir Malevich was sold for £5.7 million, when Sotheby’s is expected the price to be between £1 million and £1.5 million. In 2004, it was bought for just £163,000.
Other paintings sold included works by Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Wassily Kandinsky and Salvador Dali.
Toulouse-Lautrec’s In Bed: The Kiss sold for £10.8 million, the second-highest price ever for the artist.
Sotheby’s said bidders came from 35 countries.
Photography by Elvira Nuriakhmetova