Sotheby's triumph yesterday was to sell 40 out of 54 of the hugely expensive Impressionist and modern paintings on offer at their top sale of the summer, writes Geraldine Norman.
But super-rich who eddied into the sale room chattering about high prices paid at Christie's the night before, insisted on paying prices at, or below, presale forecasts. There was a healthy market but no boom. Sotheby's made pounds 28m, a million more than Christie's - the highest total for any sale in London since June 1990.
Star of the evening was a richly coloured Gauguin landscape painted in Tahiti in 1893 which sold for pounds 5,501,500. There was one bidder. A very early Kandinsky abstract, Skizze fur Improvisation 4, painted in 1909 just as the artist was making the transition from figurative to abstract painting, was estimated at pounds 2.5m-pounds 3m. It sold for pounds 2,751,500.
There was only one fierce battle, between two bidders over the telephone, which carried a dazzling Emil Nolde depiction of a flower garden dating from 1907 to pounds 782,500. Sotheby's had expected pounds 250,000 to pounds 350,000. .
The chattering classes called the sale a success. The market is regaining strength. Things are selling. Never mind the price.
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