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Soutine, Cezanne to star at New York auctions


Works by Soutine, Cezanne, Picasso and Modigliani were expected to shine this week at red-hot spring auctions of Impressionist and Modern art in New York.

Rivals Christie's and Sotheby's say the market, long recovered from the post-2008 financial crisis slump, is in better than buoyant mood.

Last year, Sotheby's Modern and Impressionist auction notched up a record-setting $119.9 million sale of a version of Edvard Munch's "The Scream."

This time, the main stars are expected to be Paul Cezanne's "Les Pommes," along with Amedeo Modigliani's "L'Amazone," and sculptures by Rodin and Picasso.

A total of 70 works are up for sale on Tuesday, with an estimated value of $165 million.

"Les Pommes," a landmark still life of apples on a table, is estimated to fetch between $25-35 million.

"Les Pommes is one of Cezanne's most perfect still lifes" said Charles Moffett, vice chairman of Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern Art. "These moving compositions, which explore the paradoxes of forms in space, inspired the Cubism of Picasso and Braque and signal the birth of modern art."

Modigliani's "L'Amazone," estimated at $20-30 million, was painted early in his career in 1909 and shows the glamorous Baroness Marguerite de Hasse de Villers.

The works are from the collection of philanthropists Alex and Elisabeth Lewyt and will fund a foundation set up in their honor, with a focus on animal welfare and others of their favored causes.

Picasso's statue "Sylvette," estimated at $12-18 million, is expected to get attention, given what Simon Shaw, head of the Impressionist and Modern department, called the "increasing sophistication of sculptures buyers."

It's Picasso's interpretation of his young neighbor in Vallauris, in the south of France, in 1954 and is made of metal.

Sotheby's will also be selling three Rodin bronzes, including a version of "Le Penseur," or "The Thinker," estimated at $8-12 million.

The Christie's sale on Wednesday will be led by Soutine's "Le Petit Patissier," ("The Little Pastry Chef"), estimated at $16-22 million, and Andre Derain's 1905 "Portrait de Madame Matisse au kimono," estimated at $15-20 million.

Christie's says it hopes Soutine's pastry chef, the sixth of a renowned series, will set an auction record for the Russian-born French artist.

Derain's painting of Matisse's wife is "the most important portrait" ever auctioned by the co-founder of Fauvism, said Brooke Lampley, head of the Impressionist and Modern department at Christie's.

"To have a large-scale portrait of this exceptional caliber and with such a celebrated muse as its subject makes this an unparalleled collecting opportunity for fine art connoisseurs worldwide," she said.

Christie's will feature some 50 works, including 11 Picassos, and Chagall's unusual "Three Acrobats."