Manet work fetches a new record price of US$65 million at auction

Adrien Meyer, international director at Christie's, shows the painting Le Printemps, 1881, by French painter Edouard Manet during its presentation at Christie's Auction House in Paris on Oct 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Adrien Meyer, international director at Christie's, shows the painting Le Printemps, 1881, by French painter Edouard Manet during its presentation at Christie's Auction House in Paris on Oct 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

New York (AFP) - A stunning 1881 masterpiece by Edouard Manet sold for US$65 million (S$84 million) at auction in New York on Wednesday, a record for a work by the French impressionist artist.

Le Printemps, which the auction house Christie's had valued at US$25 million to US$30 million, depicts a famous actress of the day and was exhibited in 1882 to critical acclaim while Manet was one of the most famous living artists.

The canvas has been owned by the same family for more than a century and for the last 20 years been on loan to the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

It was snapped up by a buyer in the front row who calmly fended off furious bidding on the telephone to clinch the picture for US$65.13 million.

The previous auction record for a work of art by Manet was US$33 million - a self-portrait sold in 2010 at Sotheby's in London.

Later in the evening, Christie's sold Les Constructeurs Avec Arbre by French cubist painter Fernand Leger for US$17.53 million after much slower bidding.

The auction house had valued the painting at up to US$22 million.

Wednesday's auction featured a number of cubist works, hoping to capitalise on interest in a current cubism exhibition at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The exhibition features the private collection of billionaire philanthropist Leonard Lauder, son of the late cosmetics tycoon Estee Lauder.

Christie's auction comes after Sotheby's sold more than US$422 million worth of modern and impressionist art at an evening sale on Tuesday.

Tuesday's highlights were a 1950 bronze by Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti for US$101 million and Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani's Tete for US$70.7 million.