NEW YORK, N.Y.- Auction history was made at Sotheby’s this evening when Pablo Picasso’s Garçon à la Pipe, from the fabled Whitney Collection, sold for $104,168,000 to an anonymous buyer, making it the most expensive painting in the world. "It is the greatest possible privilege for Sotheby’s to have been the auction house to break the $100 million threshold," said Bill Ruprecht, President and Chief Executive Officer of Sotheby’s. The work exceeded the previous record of $82.5 million set in May 1990 by Vincent van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet. As many as seven bidders in the room and on the phone competed for the Rose Period masterpiece for more than seven minutes. When Tobias Meyer, tonight’s auctioneer, took the final bid from a Sotheby’s representative standing in the room, the salesroom erupted into applause.
The painting was included in a sale of 34 works from the Greentree Foundation from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney, which brought a total of $189,894,400, exceeding the high estimate of $157.6 million. In addition to a record set by Picasso, auction records were also established for William Blake, Raoul Dufy, Sir Alfred J. Munnings and Frédéric Bazille. Sales of Property from Greentree Foundation from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney continue at Sotheby’s with American Paintings on May 19th in New York and British Pictures in London on June 10th.
Richard Schaffer, President of the Greentree Foundation, commented after the sale: "The Foundation is delighted with tonight’s results and deeply appreciates Sotheby’s outstanding efforts on its behalf. These results are a great tribute to Mr. and Mrs. Whitney who represented collecting at its very best. Art was an essential aspect of their lives, and many of the masterpieces they collected were donated to America’s major art institutions. Their extraordinary philanthropy now continues as the proceeds of the art they collected and, most importantly, lived with and loved, will be used to support the efforts of the Greentree Foundation in the furtherance of peace, human rights and international cooperation, causes of deep and abiding concern to both Mr. and Mrs. Whitney and the Foundation’s trustees."
Charles Moffett, Co-Director of Impressionist and Modern Art at Sotheby’s, said: "Tonight’s results attest to the remarkable eye for quality and the extraordinary discernment and sense of taste which was the hallmark of the Whitney’s lifelong collecting adventure. Sotheby’s is honored to have been chosen to sell this collection which included some of the finest works in private hands ever to appear at auction. The appeal of the Whitney Collection was truly international, and drew bidding from all corners of globe: Great Britain, the United States, Singapore, France, Switzerland, Canada and Taiwan."
David Norman, Co-Director of Impressionist and Modern Art at Sotheby’s, said, "Bidders competed fiercely for works from the collection lovingly put together by Mr. and Mrs. Whitney. The outstanding highlight of the evening was obviously Picasso’s haunting and poetic Boy with a Pipe which is a picture capable of provoking an emotional response from anyone who views it."
This evening’s sale also featured one of Edouard Manet’s greatest paintings, Courses au Bois de Boulogne, which brought $26,328,000. The canvas was painted in 1872 at a time when memories of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) were still fresh, and a sunny day at the races was therefore a particularly welcome respite. It had been expected to sell for $20/30 million.
Sir Alfred J. Munnings’ The "Red Prince Mare" inspired bidding from more than five interested parties, driving the price to $7,848,000, a record for the artist and for a Sporting Painting at auction. One of four works by the artist offered this evening, The Red Prince Mare depicts Rosemary being saddled before a point-to-point race. The painting had been estimated to sell for $4/6 million. Also by Munnings were Leaving the Paddock at Epsom Downs, which brought $848,000, Before the Start, which sold for $904,000 and The Winner, which sold for $736,000.
The collection included a second work by Pablo Picasso, Plant de tomate, which sold for $6,840,000, above the high estimate of $4 million. The work is one of only nine depictions of this theme the artist painted while in Paris over a two week period in August 1944, near the end of the German occupation of France.
Frédéric Bazille’s Pot de Fleurs was another highlight of the evening, bringing $5,328,000, a record for the artist at auction. Widely acclaimed as one of the greatest flower paintings of the Impressionist movement, the work had been exhibited widely and included in virtually every important publication on the Impressionist movement.
One of only four monotypes by William Blake remaining in private hands, The Good and Evil Angels Struggling for Possession of a Child, exceeded its high estimate of $1.5 million, to sell for $3,144,000, also a record for the artist at auction. The price eclipsed the previous record of $2.5 million achieved in April 1999 by the artist’s First Book of Urizen also from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney.