A nervous New York art world breathed a sigh of relief on the first night of the fall auctions yesterday when a Matisse painting fetched a whopping $33.6 million, far above its high estimate. Collectors and dealers are watching November's sales at Sotheby's and Christie's with anxiety, reports the New York Times, but Christie's modern and impressionist sale broke several records, hitting new highs for Matisse, Cézanne, Signac and Pissarro.
Already jittery from global market turmoil, the art world is poised on a knife's edge because the two big auction houses have offered massive guarantees to woo collectors. If a painting doesn't sell, the client gets paid anyway and the auction house loses. Two bidders battled over Matisse's L'Odalisque, Harmonie Bleue (1937) until it was won by an anonymous telephone bidder.