The first fall auction of the season at Christie’s on Monday was solid, if low energy. There were several empty seats, and some bids had to be coaxed out from the room.
But the bidding briefly jolted to life on Vincent van Gogh’s vibrant 1889 landscape, “Laboureur dans un champ,” which jumped on one bid from $42 million to $55 million.
The painting eventually sold for $81.3 million with fees, just shy of setting a new auction high, not counting inflation, for the artist; the previous top price was $82.5 million in 1990, the zenith of the Impressionist art boom.
The Van Gogh, which depicts the view from the window of the artist’s room in the asylum at Saint-Rémy-de- Provence, was among the highlights of Monday’s Impressionist and modern sale, which totaled $479.3 million, the highest total in that category for the auction house in a decade. Of the 68 lots offered, 60 — or 88 percent — sold.
“It was a very good sale,” said Paul Gray of the Richard Gray Gallery in Chicago. “There was thin bidding, but they succeeded in just about everything.”
Among the other highly anticipated lots of the evening was Fernand Léger’s 1913 canvas from his “Contraste de formes” (Contrasts of forms) series, one of some 50 Cubist canvases produced by Léger in 1912-1914, which the MoMA website describes as “among the most defiantly abstract works yet seen.” Ambitiously valued at $65 million the painting sold Monday for $70.1 million with fees, a high for the artist.