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By Culturekiosque Staff

LONDON, 4 FEBRUARY 2010 — Last night at Sotheby’s in London, Alberto Giacometti’s life-size L’homme qui marche I (Walking Man I) sold for £65,001,250 / $104,327,006 /€74,185,983 becoming the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction. The sale of that work was swiftly followed by that of Gustav Klimt’s Kirche in Cassone, which made £26,921,250 / $43,208,606/ €30,725,246 – a new record price for a landscape by the artist. These two works headlined a sale that realised a record-breaking total of £146,828,350 / $235,659,502 / €167,575,324 - making it the highest value sale ever staged in London. (Pre-sale estimate for the sale was £69,060,000 - 102,130,000).

Giacometti’s L’homme qui marche I (Walking Man I)

The expectant saleroom fell quiet as bidding opened at £12 million. Some eight minutes later, after an agressive bidding battle between at least ten prospective purchasers, the 1960 Giacometti bronze sculpture — the only life-time cast of this iconic subject ever to have come to auction — sold to an anonymous telephone bidder, establishing a new record price not only for the artist, and for any piece of sculpture ever sold at auction but also, and more importantly, taking its place in history as the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction, and eclipsing Pablo Picasso’s Garçon à la Pipe, which sold for $104,168,000/ £58,052,830/ €85,949,017 at Sotheby’s New York in May 2004.

Alberto Giacometti: L’homme qui marche I (Walking Man I),1960
Bronze. 183 x 26 x 95.5 cm (72 x 10 3/16 x 37 9/16 in.

Alberto Giacometti (1901 - 1966), the Swiss sculptor, was almost fifty when he created the form of the human figure by which he is best known — tall and inconceivably thin male and female forms.

Commenting on the price achieved for the Giacometti, Helena Newman, Vice Chairman of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art department worldwide, said: "The price is a reflection of the extraordinary importance of this exceptionally rare work, and the only life-time cast of this iconic subject ever to have come to auction."

Formerly part of the corporate collection of Dresdner Bank AG, the sculpture came into the possession of Commerzbank AG after the latter’s takeover of Dresdner Bank in 2009. Commerzbank intends to use the sale proceeds to strengthen the resources of its new Foundation Centre, and also to provide funds to their partner museums for restoration work and educational programmes.

Gustav Klimt’s Kirche in Cassone (Church in Cassone)

Also the subject of keen interest and excitement was Gustav Klimt’s Kirche in Cassone – a  work charged with historical significance, the painting attracted four bidders who together took the final price to £26,921,250 / $43,208,606 / €30,725,246 — well in excess of the pre-sale estimate of £12-18 million and establishing a new auction record for a landscape by the artist.

Gustav Klimt: Kirche in Cassone (Church in Cassone)
Oil on canvas

Once part of one of an early collection of Klimt’s work – that of the Austro-Hungarian iron magnate and collector Victor Zuckerkandl and his wife Paula - the work went missing in Vienna during the Nazi period and only resurfaced decades later. It was offered for sale tonight pursuant to an agreement between Georges Jorisch, the now 81-year old great nephew of the original owner, and the European private collector in whose family the painting had been for several years.

Other notable prices included an important still life by Paul Cézanne.

Paul Cézanne: Pichet et fruits sur une table, 1893-94
Oil on canvas

Painted in 1893-4, when Cezanne’s mastery of the still life was at its height, Pichet et fruits sur une table ranks among the finest works by the artist ever to have come to auction. Once part of such illustrious collections as those of Dr Albert C. Barnes, Chester A. Beatty and Laurance S. Rockefeller, the painting sold for £11,801,250 / $18,941,006 /€13,468,777.

Related Culturekiosque Archives

Giacometti in Basel: Too Rich, Not Thin Enough

Gustav Klimt: Erotic Drawings of Young Women

The Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé Collection: A Bruised Beau Monde Binges

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