Paris auction of Impressionist works falls short of expectations

PARIS (AP) – A benchmark Paris sale of Impressionist and Modern paintings that belonged to French fashion designer Jeanne Lanvin fell well short of pre-sale expectations Monday, in a clear signal the financial crisis is hitting the previously resilient art market.

Christie’s auction house said in a statement it raised euro7.67 million ($9.67 million) at its evening sale of works by artists including Pablo Picasso and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. It had originally valued the collection at euro20 million ($25.2 million).

The highest-selling work in the sale was Renoir’s Woman with a Parasol Sitting in the Garden, which earned euro1.16 million ($1.46 million) below its estimate of euro1.2 million ($1.51 million) to euro1.8 million ($2.27 million), according to Christie’s.

Only 23 of the 31 lots were sold, it said. Among the paintings that failed to find a buyer was Renoir’s The Tapestry in the Park (Presumed Portrait of Camille Monet), which had been estimated at euro2.5 million ($3.15 million) to euro3.5 million ($4.41 million).

Further works by artists including Edgar Degas, Eugene Boudin and Camille Pissarro also stayed on the shelf.

“Unsold works are the reflection of estimates considered excessive by the current market, while those paintings with reasonable estimates drew great interest from international collectors,” Anika Guntrum, head of Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art department, said in the statement.

Lanvin, who died in 1946 at the age of 79, started off making clothes for her daughter. She went on to become one of France’s most influential designers of the 1920s and ’30s, creating the classic fragrance Arpege.

The paintings originally hung in her Paris apartment, designed by the architect and interior designer Armand-Albert Rateau. A portion of the interior is now on show at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale will go toward two arts charities run by the Polignac dynasty, the aristocratic family which Lanvin’s daughter Marie-Blanche married into.

The Lanvin fashion label lives on, under the artistic direction of the critically acclaimed Israeli-American designer Alber Elbaz.

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