Literature: the Constantinople Prize to an Israeli and a Palestinian

NEW YORK: A record for Degas, another for a bronze by Picasso, but also a dinosaur skeleton which inspired Jurassic Park, sold for 12 million dollars: auctions at Christie’s in New York on Thursday evening confirmed the appetite of collectors in all fields.

Baptized the Raptor, the skeleton of a Deinonychus antirrhopus, made up of 126 fossilized bones and measuring more than 3 meters long, was sold for 12.4 million dollars, including costs, to an Asian client, indicated the house of auction after the sale, without further details.

This is the second highest price for such a relic, however far behind a specimen of the big star, the Tyrannosaurus Rex, which left in 2020 for 31.8 million dollars.

In good condition, the Raptor, which was enthroned at the entrance to Christie’s headquarters in Manhattan, was presented as the most complete for this species. It was discovered several years ago in Wolf Canyon, Montana, and has been in private hands ever since.

– Scientific freedoms –

Smaller than the T-Rex, more agile too, the Deinonychus antirrhopus inspired the Velociraptor of Steven Spielberg’s film “Jurassic Park” (1993). In reality, they are two different species, but the writers had taken some liberties with scientific truth.

Sales of dinosaur skeletons now regularly enliven the auctions, such as “Big John”, an 8 m long triceratops skeleton sold for 6.6 million euros to an American private individual in October 2020. Even if it means frustrating paleontologists, who see one less chance of exhibiting them in museums.

This sale ended a more traditional evening, marked in particular by a record for Edgar Degas (1834-1917), whose sculpture, “Little dancer aged fourteen”, was sold for 41.6 million dollars, the highest ever reached at auction for the French artist.

This delicate bronze with a brown patina, which depicts a young ballerina with realism and detail, is not the original exhibited at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, but one of the proofs executed ten years after the death of the French impressionist by the founder Adrien-Aurélien Hébrard.

The previous record for a sculpture by Degas belonged to another version of the little dancer ($24 million in 2015), but Thursday night’s sale also breaks the record for any work by the Frenchman, held by the painting “Dancer at Rest ($37 million in 2008).

– Well decorated apartment –

The sculpture was one of twelve pieces in the collection of Anne Bass, an American businesswoman and patron who died in 2020, who was also the wife of billionaire and heir to an oil empire in Texas, Sid Bass.

During his lifetime, all the works were exhibited in his luxurious apartment on 5th Avenue in Manhattan: among them, two paintings by the American expressionist Marc Rothko (1903-1970), of which one “Untitled (Shades of red)” left at $66.8 million, and three paintings by Claude Monet (1840-1926). His “Parliament, Setting Sun,” a dark yet luminous oil on canvas, sold for $75.96 million. In total, the twelve works brought in $363 million.

Another record, as part of a sale devoted to the 20th century, with a “Head of a Woman (Fernande)” by Pablo Picasso, which has become the most expensive bronze by the Spanish artist ever sold at auction, at 48.48 million of dollars. This piece was sold by the Metropolitan Museum in New York, which received another model of this sculpture as a donation.

Among the highlights of the evening was a painting by African American Ernie Barnes (1938-2009), who was an artist after playing American football. His “Sugar Shack”, an acrylic on canvas, was estimated at between $150,000 and $200,000 by Christie’s, but it flew to $15.2 million after a 10-minute battle involving 22 buyers. It capped at auction at $550,000.

Finally, an American painter of the 19th century, Emanuel Leutze, increased his record tenfold with a fresco, “Washington crossing the Delaware”, sold for 45 million dollars. Total sales for the evening: $831 million.

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Literature: the Constantinople Prize to an Israeli and a Palestinian