Brancusi bronze sculpture sets absolute record in NY auction, being sold for USD 57.37 M

A bronze sculpture sold for USD 57.37 million in New York on Monday, set an absolute auction record for Romanian-born sculptor Constantin Brancusi after fetching more than twice its lowest pre-sale estimate, Christie’s said.

The sculpture of a sleeping 26cm woman’s head — “La muse endormie” was sold after nine minutes of bidding at Christie’s impressionist and modern art sale.

The sculpture, molded in bronze in 1913 after a model designed in 1909-1910, was snapped up by an anonymous bidder having been valued pre-sale at $25-35 million, the auction house said.

“La muse endormie” was appearing at auction for the first time. First conceived in marble in 1909-1910, this version of “La muse endormie” is one of only two of the six bronze still in private hands. It was acquired by French collector Jacques UImann in the 1950s and has remained in his family to this day.

The artist’s previous record, mounting to EUR 29.1 M (USD 37.2 M at that time) dates back in 2009, when the collection owned by Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé was put up for sale. The piece was though different, representing an oak statuette, ‘Madame L.R. (Portrait de madame L.R.)’.

Brancusi’s works have become quite rare in auctions, so the Monday’s sale was a quite an event.

The second top selling lot at Christie’s on Monday was a Picasso portrait of his mistress, Dora Maar, called “Femme assise, robe bleue,” painted on the Spanish master’s 58th birthday, which sold for $45 million, Christie’s said.

Much of the art being offered this season is fresh to market — 84 percent of the works offered by Christie’s on Monday had never been offered at auction or have been off the market for 20 years or more.

Christie’s said the evening sale of impressionist and modern greats, including Monet, Chagall and Fernand Leger, fetched $289 million.

Buyers from 35 countries registered to bid, with 42 percent American and 23 percent Asian buying by lot, said Jessica Fertig, senior Christie’s specialist in impressionist and modern art.


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