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Fall Art Auctions Kick Off With Modern Art from Tremaine Collection

November 6, 1991 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ Fernand Leger’s ″The Breakfast,″ part of the one of the greatest private collections of 20th century art, sold at Christie’s on Tuesday for $7.7 million, less than the $8 million to $10 million estimate.

Leger’s work, purchased by a private European buyer, was part of 47 paintings and sculptures assembled over a half century by Emily and Burton Tremaine.

Part of the Tremaine collection was put on the auction block Tuesday night; the rest will be auctioned during the next two weeks during the big fall art auctions.

The sales, to be held at Christie’s and Sotheby’s auction houses during the next two weeks, will be an important indicator of whether the art market remains in a severe slump. The combined estimate of the works to be auctioned is $250 million.

″The Breakfast,″ a painting of three nude women whose mechanistic forms lounge on pillows in a post-Cubist interior, brought the highest price of all the works on the block Tuesday night. The auction included works from the Tremaine collection and other Impressionist, modern and contemporary art.

Four paintings showing panoramic views of each of the four seasons by Camille Pissarro sold for $6.8 million. They had been estimated to sell for a total $7 million to $9 million.

Robert Delaunay’s ″The First Disk,″ a circular canvas that resembles a dart board with concentric bands of boldly contrasting color, sold for $5.17 million, about $2 million more than expected and a record for the artist. An auction official said it was the most difficult painting he ever estimated at Christie’s.

Juan Gris’ cubist still life, ″Pears and Grapes on a Table,″ sold for $3.3 million, just making the presale estimate and setting another record for the artist.

Christopher Burge, president, chief executive officer and auctioneer of Christie’s, was generally upbeat about Tuesday’s sale. Sixty works of art were offered for sale and 38 were sold. Sixteen of the 18 artworks in the Tremaine collection sold.

Most of the Tremaine collection was sold to private European collectors. Burge said many Americans bid Tuesday night but not as many actually bought artworks. Unlike previous years, when Asians dominated some auctions, there was only one Asian buyer of the Tremaine works, he said.

Both Joan Miro’s large playful painting, ″The White Cat,″ estimated at $1.5 million to $2.5 million, or Piet Mondrian’s serene and classic ″Composition,″ estimated at $4 million to $6 million, failed to sell.

Burge said the only ″major disappointment″ was Henri de Toulouse- Lautrec’s portrait of a redheaded woman. The painting was from the collection of the late Siegfried and Lola Kramarksy and was valued at $4 million to $5 million. The bidding failed to reach the secret minimum price agreed upon by the seller and the auction house.