On November 1, 1888, Vincent van Gogh set up his easel in an ancient Roman necropolis in Arles, France, and painted an avenue of stone sarcophagi lined by towering poplars aflame with the colours of autumn. Known as ‘L’allee Des Alyscamps’, it was the big seller at Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern art evening sale on Tuesday, bringing $66.3 million — when it had been expected to fetch $40 million — as five bidders competed for a prize that ultimately went to an Asian private collector.
The sale, the first major auction of the spring season and the only large evening sale this week, brought in a total of $368 million for Sotheby’s, making it the second-highest sale of Impressionist and modern art in the auction house’s history.
Last November, Sotheby’s took in $422 million from such a sale. The highest price paid for a van Gogh at auction was the $82.5 million paid in 1990 for his “Portrait of Dr Gachet.”
Following close behind on Tuesday night was one of Claude Monet’s water lilies — “Nympheas” — which went for $54 million, well above its high estimate of $45 million. Monet’s 1913 “Bassin Aux Nympheas, Les Rosiers” was also one of the evening’s big draws, though the $20.4 million it fetched was toward the lower end of the pre-sale estimate range of $18 million to $25 million.
The artist’s “Le Palais Ducal” did better. Painted in 1908 from a floating pontoon, it sold for $23 million, at the high end of the presale estimate of $15 million to $20 million.
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