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Rare Edouard Manet self portrait sold for record £22million at Sothebys auction

A rare self portrait by Edouard Manet’s has sold for more than £22 million at auction, in a record sale for the artist

By Andrew Hough

The painting, “Self Portrait with a Palette”, was bought for a record price by New York dealer Franck Giraud, who was bidding at the Sothebys sale, in central London.

The Manet was among 51 lots in Sotheby’s sale of Impressionist and modern works at the start of a series of auctions in London over the coming fortnight.

Three lots sold for more than £10 million including the 1878 Manet, one of only two self-portraits he painted.

It shows the artist dressed as a Parisian dandy, rather than as a working artist. It was created at a time when Manet was enjoying unprecedented critical acclaim.

The previous highest price paid for the French artist was £17.8 million ($26.4 million), for the 1878 street scene “La rue Mosnier aux drapeaux” at Christie’s in New York in November 1989.

The work, part of a collection from Steven A Cohen, a high profile art collector and hedge fund manager, had been estimated to fetch between £20 million and £30 million.

“It’s a great Manet,” said Christophe van de Weghe, a New York art dealer. “Many museums would like to have this picture.”

Among the other items was “Arbres a Collioure” by Andre Derain, which sold for £16.3 million to an anonymous telephone bidder, Sotheby’s said.

The previous auction record for Derain was for “Barques au port de Collioure”, which sold for £8.6 million last November at Sotheby’s in New York.

Henri Matisse’s Odalisques jouant aux dames sold for more than £11 million. He painted it in Nice in 1928 during what experts say was his most accomplished period as a colourist.

Experts said works by virtually every major and collectable Impressionist and Modern artist were due to go under the hammer at Sothebys and Christies.

Works by Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet and Henri Matisse will lead auctions as the top end of the art market recovers from the biggest slump since 1991.

They could fetch up to £450 million, which would break the previous British record of £298 million set two year ago before the current financial crisis hit the sector.

“The strong results achieved… demonstrate the continued momentum we saw in our sales (previously),” said Melanie Clore, Co-Chairman of Impressionist & Modern Art, Sotheby’s Worldwide, .

“To sell three works for over £10 million (each), for the second time… in the last six months is testimony not only to the vitality of the Impressionist and Modern Art market but also to the pivotal role that London plays within the international auction market.”

Recent record auction prices for Impressionist and modern masters have encouraged collectors to sell high- value works as the market has record an astonishing recovery over the past year.

“Results over the last six months have made private sellers confident about putting high-value works into auction,” said Philip Hoffman, founder of the London-based investment company, the Fine Art Fund.

“The auction houses can assure sellers that there will be five or six bidders lined up for the top lots.

“I’m amazed by how much money and how many different nationalities are pitching in for the major things. There are bidders from the U.S., Russia, the Middle East and Asia.”

Pablo Picasso’s 1903 Blue Period “Portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto (The Absinthe Drinker)” is being offered by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the composer, at Christie’s on Wednesday.

It is expected to raise as much as 40 million pounds, Christie’s said.

The highest price achieved at auction for a work by an Impressionist- or Post-Impressionist-period artist is the £40.9 million paid for the 1919 Monet canvas “Le Bassin aux Nympheas” at Christie’s in London in June 2008.

In February an Alberto Giacometti bronze sculpture has become the most expensive piece of art to sell at auction after it was sold in London for more than £65million.

Figures show the average auction prices at evening sales of contemporary works is now £2.9 million, up from £1.4 million pounds last year.

“There’s a renewed confidence. When the recession was at its height, people felt that there was no point in selling the pictures if the market was weak because there was no money around,” said London art dealer Johnny van Haeften.

“The stock markets are volatile, the currency markets are incredibly volatile and the banks are paying very little interest, and that is assuming that the banks remain solvent.

“The one thing that has proven itself as solid investments are works of art.”

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