In a dramatic close to Sotheby’s modern art evening sale in Hong Kong on Sunday, vice chairman Brooke Lampley unveiled a large-scale Claude Monet water lilies painting to the live-streamed auction’s audience. That work, titled Le Bassin aux Nymphéas, is itself now going to be sold by the house. It will hit the block at Sotheby’s New York Impressionist and modern art evening sale on May 12, where it is expected to fetch $40 million.
Monet completed the work between 1917 and 1919, during the last decade of his life. Drawing inspiration from the artist’s Giverny garden, Le Bassin aux Nymphéas is part of a series that commands the artist’s top auction prices. Another work from the series sold at Christie’s in 2008 for £40.9 million ($80.5 million); it had come from the estate of Indiana philanthropists Irwin and Xenia Miller. And in 2018, one from the David Rockefeller collection sold at Christie’s for $84 million.
The last work by Monet of this caliber to sell at auction was Meules, a landscape scene depicting haystacks, which was bought by Hasso Plattner at Sotheby’s in May 2019 for $110 million. If the present work reaches its high estimate, it will be among the top 10 works by the Impressionist ever to be sold at auction.
This is not the first time the work has appeared in a public sale. The seller purchased the work 17 years ago, during a Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern art sale, for $16.8 million, against an estimate of $9 million. At the time, it was being sold from the holdings of Los Angeles collectors Fran and Ray Stark. Prior to that, it also passed through the hands of renowned New York Old Masters dealer Richard L. Feigen.