Vincent van Gogh's "View of the Asylum and Chapel at St. Remy" from 1889, owned by Elizabeth Taylor, was among many works that went unsold last night at Christie's in London. The sale of Impressionist and modern art was later described by a number of participants in the room as the worst for such art at this house in more than a decade.
The van Gogh was the most important painting in the sale, at which 24 of the 64 artworks offered brought a total of $19.9 million. The presale estimate for the van Gogh was $16 million to $20 million. The estimate for the entire sale was $42 million to $71 million.
No bids appeared to have been made for Taylor's painting, van Gogh's only study of the building where he spent most of the last year before his suicide in July 1890. She bought the painting for $257,600 in 1963 through her father, Francis Taylor, a London art dealer, who went to the sale.
James Roundell, director of Christie's London sales of Impressionist and modern art, said by telephone from London after the sale: "The market wasn't there in any strength tonight. The van Gogh was a unique view of the asylum. It had that star history. But the star history runs better with smaller things than it does with the larger objects."
Roundell said the auction, the first in the London series of major art sales this fall, showed a further decline in buying and in the amounts paid since the New York sales in mid-November.