Monet's $54 Million Water Lilies Leads the Pack at Major Sotheby's Auction

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Yesterday evening, one of the most famous paintings in the world hit the auction block. One of Claude Monet's water lilies, titled Nympheas, was part of a larger auction of Impressionist and modern art in London held by Sotheby's. 

The total auction brought in $208 million, a fifteen percent increase from last year's auction and the third-largest for Sotheby's in this category in London. The total auction included 46 lots, and 42 were sold. They went home with art collectors from around the world, with major Russian, Asian and American art buyers taking home the best of the pieces. Many of the pieces in the auction were from Jan Krugier's estate, a well known art dealer who passed away several years ago. 

The largest sale of the day, bringing in $54 million, was Monet's Nympheas. The premium price was the result of a bidding war between two Sotheby's phone clients. Painted in 1906, it was based on Monet's lily pond at his garden in Giverny. The piece was estimated to bring in $30-to-50 million. At $54 million, it was the second highest price a Monet has brought at auction. The highest price was set in 2008 at Christie's, $80.4 million. Monet’s La Seine a Argenteuil also fared well, bringing in about 14 million dollars. 

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This has been a big week for art and major auctions, as Art Basel in Switzerland just wrapped up and a major Sotheby's auction for rock-and-roll memorabilia is around the corner. Basel had its own share of unique and major art purchases, including Jeff Koons' inflatable dolphin sculpture for $5 million and an Andy Warhol self-portrait that went for $32 million. At the rock-and-roll auction, a stained Elvis jumpsuit is expected to bring as much as $300,000. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.