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Wednesday, 8 May, 2002, 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK
Sculpture smashes world record price
Constantin Brancusi's Danaide
Brancusi's Danaide was expected to do well
A sculpture by Constantin Brancusi has broken the world record auction price for a sculpture, going for $18,159,500 (12,374,446) at Christie's in New York.

An anonymous telephone bidder smashed the record to obtain Danaide, the 1913 super-stylised gold leaf sculpture of a woman's head.

It was the star lot of Christie's spring sale of Impressionist and modern art, marked by particularly strong prices for sculpture.

Magritte's L'Empire des Lumieres
The Magritte lot was a new record for the painter
The previous world record for a sculpture was held by Alberto Giacometti's Grande Femme Debout I, which sold for $14.3m (9.8m) in November 2000.

Leading the paintings in the first major spring sale of the year was Rene Magritte's L'Empire des Lumieres.

The Belgian surrealist's startling contrast of night and day sold for $12,659,500 (8,626,575), a record for the artist.

Giacometti's 1950 sculpture La Foret - showing six spindly-looking figures - fetched $13,209,500 (9,001,362).

Scandal

The previous record for Brancusi - a Romanian who worked in Paris until his death in 1956 - was $8.8m (6m), set in May 1990 by La Negresse Blonde.


It was a pretty explosive and exciting start to the week

Christopher Burge
Christie's

But Christie's officials expressed delight with the results of the spring sale, which auctioneer Christopher Burge attributed to "the obvious strength of the market ... particularly for works of quality".

"It was a pretty explosive and exciting start to the week."

Officials at the major houses have noted prices are holding up despite a relatively flat economy in the wake of last year's downturn.

While the Brancusi, estimated at $8-10m (5.4m - 6.8m), had been considered likely to break the artist's record, Burge said the final figure, including commission, was "an extraordinary price."

Sculpture generally did well, with Edgar Degas' Le Tub, a woman submerged in a bath created to be viewed from above, fetching $1,989,500 (1,366,892).

Disappointment

Another highlight of the auction was Gustave Caillebotte's Un Soldat, a vivid painting of a soldier, which sold for $6,389,500 (4,354,003), nearly double its high estimate of $3.5m (2.4m).

In all, nearly three-quarters of the 46 lots offered found buyers.

A major disappointment was the failure of Monet's Vetheuil au Soleil to sell when bidding peaked at $3.6m (2.5m), below the $4m (2.7m) estimate.

The spring auctions continue on Wednesday with Sotheby's sale of Impressionist and modern art.

Contemporary and post-war art sales will be held next week.

See also:

07 May 02 | Arts
Degas tub goes under hammer
06 Dec 01 | Americas
Former Sotheby's chairman guilty
15 Apr 02 | Arts
Art worth 30m up for auction
03 Apr 02 | Arts
Art collection could fetch 15m
06 Feb 02 | Arts
Bacon paintings sold for 1.9m
26 Jun 01 | Arts
Monet art sale raises millions
04 Feb 02 | Arts
Monks sell 8m art
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