A $52 Million Klimt Leads Sotheby’s $427 Million Evening Sales

Upcoming auctions for Sotheby's will include blockbuster works by Louise Bourgeois and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Sotheby's bidding room, auctioneer in middle with crowd in front of him.
The auction of Mo Ostin’s collection at Sotheby’s on May 16. Courtesy of Sotheby's

New York’s art auction season continued with $427 million in sales at Sotheby's yesterday (May 16) during its Modern Evening Auction and the sale of Mo Ostin’s collection.

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Works previously owned by Ostin, the late Warner Brothers record executive, brought in $123 million. The sale was led by Rene Magritte’s L’Empire des lumieres, which sold for $42.3 million and is now the Belgian artist’s second most valuable work.

SEE ALSO: The Beauty of Picasso’s ‘Compotier et guitare’ Is in Its Story

“Perhaps no work from the collection better represents Mo Ostin’s forward-thinking vision as a collector–acquiring this painting more than 40 years ago, long before Magritte became the global phenomenon as we know him today,” said Brooke Lampley, Sotheby’s chairman and head of sales for global fine art, in a statement.

Other sales from Ostin’s collection included works by Cecily Brown and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Painting of silhouetted house and tree against blue sky
Rene Magritte’s L’Empire des lumieres, (1951). Courtesy of Sotheby's

Works by Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh and Alberto Giacometti, among others, went on the block during yesterday’s auction, but the standout sale of Sotheby’s Modern Evening Auction was Gustav Klimt’s Insel im Attersee, purchased for $52.3 million. The work was sold to a Japanese private collector, bidding with Yasuaki Ishizaka, chairman and managing director for Sotheby’s Japan, after a seven-minute bidding war. It was formerly owned by art historian and gallerist Otto Kallir.

Collectors in Asia had a strong presence at the auction house’s most recent sales, accounting for more than one third of the total value, according to Sotheby’s.

Two men hold up a painting of the ocean
Gustav Klimt’s Insel im Attersee, (1902). Courtesy of Sotheby's.

The Modern Evening Auction also set artist records for Vilhelm Hammershoi and Isamu Noguchi, with pieces selling for $9 million and $12 million respectively, and included art from the collections of Fisch Davidson, Jan and Maria Manetti Shrem and Frances Wells Magee.

Upcoming auctions at Sotheby’s

More Picasso pieces, plus works from artists like Claude Monet and Alexander Calder, will go on the block in Sotheby’s Modern Day Auction today (May 17), with a focus on Impressionist and Abstract Expressionism. The auction house will feature a newer generation of younger artists during its Now Evening Auction tomorrow (May 18), with a lineup that includes works by Yoshitomo Nara, Jonas Wood and Maria Berrio.

The Contemporary Evening Auction will be held the same night, with Louise Bourgeois’ Spider as the star of the sale with a $40 million estimate. Examining shifts in art throughout the second half of the century, the sale will also include Basquiat’s Now’s the Time, which is estimated to sell for more than $30 million during its inaugural auction offering.

Additionally, Sotheby’s will host a benefit auction on May 22 for the childhood home of Nina Simone. Co-presenting alongside the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and Pace Gallery, the auction will showcase works co-curated by Venus Williams and Adam Pendleton, with a selection of pieces by artists like Cecily Brown, Robert Longo, Mary Weatherford and Stanley Whitney. The proceeds will support the preservation of Simone’s home in Tryon, North Carolina.

A $52 Million Klimt Leads Sotheby’s $427 Million Evening Sales