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Sotheby’s brings in $81 million in opening spring sale

May 14, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ Sotheby’s auction of Impressionist and modern art has opened with an $81.3 million haul, led by record sales for works by Austrian painter Gustav Klimt and French impressionist Edgar Degas.

The auction features 20th century German and Austrian art from two private collections, as well as major works by Degas and Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani.

A 1915 oil landscape by Gustav Klimt pulled in $14.7 million Tuesday night, far above its pre-auction estimate of $5 million to $7 million.

``That’s a record for the artist at auction,″ said Sotheby’s spokesman Matthew Weigman. The buyer of ``Tavern at Litzlberg″ was not identified. Klimt founded the school of painting known as the Vienna Sezession.

``The picture is of superb quality and it’s exceedingly rare, and when you have that kind of quality people like to pay quite a premium,″ said Alexander Apsis, head of Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern art department.

An 1899 Edgar Degas pastel ``Dancers,″ which had never before been on the market, fetched $11 million, a record for a Degas pastel and well above the predicted $5 million to $7 million.

Apsis said Degas shows at the National Gallery in London and the Art Institute of Chicago last year were extremely well received and ``underlined what a great artist Degas was later in his career.″

The previous record for a Klimt painting was $11.6 million set in May 1994. The previous record for a Degas pastel was $8.7 million set last fall.

Other highlights of the sale conducted mostly through telephone bidding:

_ ``Jeanne Hebuterne Wearing a Hat″ by Modigliani, a portrait of his wife and mistress which has never been on the market, fetched $9.57 million.

_ ``Flowers and Fruit,″ by Pierre-August Renoir, $3.6 million.

_ ``Conversion″ by Egon Schiele, $3.4 million.

_ ``The City (Study)″ by Fernand Leger, $2.2 million.

_ ``The Dario Palace″ by Claude Monet, $2.2 million.

The two-week round of spring sales of Impressionist, modern and contemporary art, which began May 6, were expected to bring in more than $350 million at auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

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