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Culture

Monet Waterlilies Smash Record at London Auction

A record-price sale of a Claude Monet painting at Christie's auction house in London indicates that the boom in the art market shows no signs of letting up.

An auction house worker poses for the photographer in front of Claude Monet's Le bassin aux nympheas (1919)

The Monet sale defied the global economic downturn

A painting of waterlilies by Claude Monet sold for 54 million euros ($79.3 million) at Christie's auction house in London on Tuesday, June 24, fetching a record price for the artist at auction.

"Le Bassin Aux Nympheas," signed and dated by the French impressionist in 1919 and painted in Giverny, had been expected to realize between 23 million and 30 million euros.

It became the most expensive work of art yet sold by Christie's in Europe, a spokesman for the auction house said.

The identity of the buyer was not revealed, but bidders from "all over the world" had been present at the sale, Christie's said.

The previous record for a Monet painting stood at 26.5 million euros for "Le Pont du chemin de fer a Argenteuil," sold last month.

Art market boom

"We are extremely pleased to have seen this painting attract intense interest from the huge number of people who came to see the work on public exhibition at Christie's in London, New York and Hong Kong, and also the international clients who competed to buy the picture at today's auction," said Olivier Camu, director and head of impressionist and modern art at Christie's.

"After a thrilling bidding battle between a number of clients in the room and on the telephones, the painting eventually sold to an anonymous collector for 41 million pounds," he said, adding that the sale set a new world record price for the artist at auction, and illustrated the continued confidence in the art market.

Record sales

Unlike most of Monet's late work, which remained unfinished in the studio when he died in 1926, "Le Bassin Aux Nympheas" was released by the artist during his lifetime.

The painting was in the collection of J. Irwin Miller, an industrialist from Columbus, Indiana, and his wife, Xenia Simons Miller. The couple were major philanthropists and patrons of the arts who turned their city into a showcase for modern architecture.

Another highlight of Tuesday's auction was the sale of "Danseuses a la Barre," an extremely rare early masterpiece in pastel by Edgar Degas, which realized 16 million euors, far exceeding its pre-sale estimates.

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