New York: A Vincent van Gogh portrait of a French cafe owner sold for more than $40 million at the season's first major Impressionist and modern art sale on Tuesday.
Led by the 1890 Van Gogh work, L'Arlesienne, Madame Ginoux, which went for $40.3 million, Christie's took in $180.2 million including commissions.
It was the fourth-highest price obtained for a van Gogh painting at auction, Christie's said.
That was the auction house's highest total since May 1990, when a market driven largely by speculation at the hands of Japanese buyers gave way to the crash of the early 1990s.
Sluggish economic conditions did not deter bidders from paying $34.7 million for Pablo Picasso's 1932 work The Rest. The vibrant, large-scale depiction of the artist's wife, Olga, was estimated to fetch $15 million to $20 million, but a bidding war erupted.
Auctioneer Christopher Burge said the sale reflected "right across the board a solid, strong market, without being a crazy market." The prices, he added, were "not in any way out of control."
In all, 43 of the 50 lots on offer found buyers. Bidding was more restrained than at some of the more freewheeling sales of recent seasons, but determined bidders drove up the prices of several Picassos and a Kandinsky.
"The art market is incredibly healthy and stable," said Guy Bennett, Christie's head of Impressionist and modern art afterward.
Other highlights from the sale included a pair of Henry Moore sculptures, Large Four Piece Reclining Figure and Reclining Figure, which went for $5 million and $3.6 million respectively. Kandinsky's Pfeile (Arrows), soared to $3.8 million, more than twice its high estimate.
The spring sales continue on Wednesday when Sotheby's holds its Impressionist and modern art auction, and both houses will host their contemporary and postwar art sales next week.