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Claude Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’ sells for $54m

An iconic "Water Lilies" painting by French artist Claude Monet sold for £31.7 million ($54 million, €39.7 million) at an art sale on Monday, the second-highest sum paid for his work on record.

Claude Monet's 'Water Lilies' sells for $54m
Monet 'Water Lilies' painting sells for $54 million at auction to an anonymous bidder. Photo: Andrew Cowie/AFP

The 1906 painting "Nympheas" – sold to an anonymous bidder – formed part of a seminal exhibition held at the Galerie Durand-Ruel, in Paris, in 1909 to unveil Monet's Water Lily works.

The instantly recognisable Impressionist masterpiece once belonged to the French art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel and remained in his personal collection throughout his life.

It has since been displayed in the world's top galleries, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Musee National d'Art Moderne in Paris.

"Le Bassin aux Nympheas" ("Pool of Water Lilies"), from the same series, still holds the record for a Monet painting sold at auction, fetching $80.3 million at Christie's in London in 2008

The series of around 250 oil paintings, which became Monet's main focus during his last 30 years, is considered to have had a huge impact on the evolution of modern art and to be the French artist's greatest achievement.

Also sold at Sotheby's Impressionist & Modern Art sale was "Composition with Red, Blue and Grey" by Dutch artist Piet Mondrian, which also achieved the second-highest price ever paid for one of his works at auction.

The 1927 piece, which went under the hammer to an anonymous bidder for £15.2 million, features a distinctive prime colour combination and is unusual for its large size.

It once belonged to renowned dealer and collector Ernst Beyeler and has been included in some of the most important retrospective exhibitions of Mondrian's work, including the 1971 show at the Guggenheim, New York.

Mondrian's works, featuring straight black lines, balanced compositions and bold colours, have been a source of inspiration for fashion designers, including Yves Saint Laurent.

Helena Newman, Sotheby's Co-Head of Impressionist & Modern Art Worldwide, explained: "At the core of the sale this evening was a significant group of works from private and estate collections which were met with great enthusiasm and drove global bidding throughout the auction, with notable participation from Asian and Russian collectors."

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ARCHITECTURE

Futuristic Gehry tower opens in World Heritage Arles

Rising high beyond an ancient Roman arena in Arles, a tall, twisted tower created by Frank Gehry shimmers in the sun, the latest futuristic addition to this southern French city known for its World Heritage sites.

Futuristic Gehry tower opens in World Heritage Arles
Gehry's Luma Tower opens in Arles, France. Photo: H I / Pixabay

The tower, which opens to the public on Saturday, is the flagship attraction of a new “creative campus” conceived by the Swiss Luma arts foundation that wants to offer artists a space to create, collaborate and showcase their work.

Gehry, the 92-year-old brain behind Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum and Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall, wrapped 11,000 stainless steel panels around his tower above a huge glass round base.

It will house contemporary art exhibitions, a library, and offices, while the Luma Arles campus as a whole will host conferences and live performances.

From a distance, the structure reflects the changing lights of this town that inspired Van Gogh, capturing the whiteness of the limestone Alpilles mountain range nearby which glows a fierce orange when the sun sets.

Mustapha Bouhayati, the head of Luma Arles, says the town is no stranger to
imposing monuments; its ancient Roman arena and theatre have long drawn the
crowds.

The tower is just the latest addition, he says. “We’re building the heritage of tomorrow.”

Luma Arles spreads out over a huge former industrial wasteland.

Maja Hoffmann, a Swiss patron of the arts who created the foundation, says
the site took seven years to build and many more years to conceive.

Maja Hoffmann, founder and president of the Luma Foundation. Photo: Pascal GUYOT / AFP

Aside from the tower, Luma Arles also has exhibition and performance spaces in former industrial buildings, a phosphorescent skatepark created by South Korean artist Koo Jeong A and a sprawling public park conceived by Belgian landscape architect Bas Smets.

‘Arles chose me’

The wealthy great-granddaughter of a founder of Swiss drug giant Roche, Hoffmann has for years been involved in the world of contemporary art, like her grandmother before her.

A documentary producer and arts collector, she owns photos by Annie Leibovitz and Diane Arbus and says she hung out with Jean-Michel Basquiat in New York.

Her foundation’s stated aim is to promote artists and their work, with a special interest in environmental issues, human rights, education and culture.

She refuses to answer a question on how much the project in Arles cost. But as to why she chose the 53,000-strong town, Hoffmann responds: “I did not choose Arles, Arles chose me.”

She moved there as a baby when her father Luc Hoffmann, who co-founded WWF,
created a reserve to preserve the biodiversity of the Camargue, a region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Rhone river delta known for its pink flamingos.

The tower reflects that, with Camargue salt used as mural panels and the
delta’s algae as textile dye.

Hoffmann says she wants her project to attract more visitors in the winter, in a town where nearly a quarter of the population lives under the poverty line.

Some 190 people will be working at the Luma project over the summer, Bouhayati says, adding that Hoffman has created an “ecosystem for creation”.

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