An unidentified buyer has purchased Vincent Van Gogh's L'Allée des Alyscamps for $66.3 million, making it the second most expensive Van Gogh painting ever purchased.
Normally, high-level bidders prefer to bid through the comfortable privacy of their phones, speaking to a Sotheby's representative to place their bids. But Tuesday night's Sotheby's Impressionist and modern art auction in New York City saw the mystery man dressed casually in a hooded jacket and jeans, a huge divergence from the usual business attire worn at upscale art auctions such as this. A Japanese deal tells Artnet News that the bidder, who was heard talking in Chinese but denied being Chinese, was sitting halfway back in the room.
"I haven't seen that happen in a long time," says Frances Beatty, a dealer at Richard Feigen & Co. "Buyers at these sales tend to be more discreet."
Although considered one of Van Gogh's lesser paintings, his L'Allée des Alyscamps fetched $66.3 million, premiums and fees included, far exceeding Sotheby's $45 million estimate on the painting. The L'Allée des Alyscamps is one of the Dutch Impressionist painter's works completed during his mature period from 1888 to 1890 and was completed just a month before Van Gogh cut off part of his ear.
Another Van Gogh painting exceeded expectations at a Sotheby's auction in November. Still Life, Vase With Daisies and Poppies, which was estimated to sell for $30 million to $50 million, was purchased by Chinese business Wang Zhongjun for $61.7 million. The highest bid made on a Van Gogh painting to date is $82.5 million for Portrait of Dr. Gachet, which was made by another Asian, a Japanese, in 1990.
Four paintings by Claude Monet were also part of the top-selling lots. An American buyer won a painting of one of Monet's popular lily pond depictions, Nympheas, for $54 million, also exceeding estimates of $30 to $45 million. Another Asian private collector won Monet's Bassin aux Nympheas, les Rosiers, another water lily masterpiece, for $20.4 million. The French painter's Le Palais ducal and La Seine a Vétheuil sold for $23 million and $11.5 million respectively.
Another Asian buyer purchased Pablo Picasso's Femme Au Chignon Dans Un Fauteuil for $29.9 million, well above Sotheby's estimate of $18 million. The patchwork painting pictures Picasso's Françoise Gilot wearing the jacket he gave her as a peace offering after leaving her pregnant to go on a trip to Poland.
"I was impressed with the depth of the bidding," says Christian Ogier, a Paris-based dealer at Galerie Sepia. "There were five bidders for Monet's Nympheas, and five for the Van Gogh, bidding from China, Hong Kong, and Japan."
All in all, Asian buyers accounted for one-third of Tuesday night's winning bids, says Sotheby's. The auction house raked in a total of $368.3 million, just inching past its $351 million pre-sale estimate, despite the auction being held at the same time as the prestigious Venice Biennale art exhibition in Italy.
"It's wonderful to be selling in a week when we're the only game in town," Simon Shaw says speaking to the New York Times. "It really focused people's attention."