Nelson-Atkins Museum to Sell $18 M. Monet Painting at Christie’s in May

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City will sell a Claude Monet that has been on view in its galleries for more than a decade this May at Christie’s, where it could fetch as much as $25 million.

The work is co-owned by the heirs of Ethel B. Atha, and has been given a $18 million–$25 million by the house. It will appear in a Christie’s 20th century evening sale that is part of a marquee auctions series in New York.

Moulin de Limetz is one of two paintings made that depicts a mill in a French commune in 1888. Its sister canvas sold last fall at Sotheby’s, going for $25.6 million, more than $7 million above its $18 million high estimate. 

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Christie’s called the work a “prologue to Monet’s development into series, which would become a defining tenet of his late career.”

The sum netted by Moulin de Limetz is not likely to come anywhere close to Monet’s auction record, achieved at Sotheby’s in 2019, is for Meules (1890), which sold for $110.7 million. But, with the anniversary of the first Impressionism show now just two weeks away, interest could be high.

The picture has the added benefit of a stellar provenance. It was acquired from Monet by the foremost dealer in Impressionist works of the era, Paul Durand-Ruel, in 1890. After decades with the collector Lucien Sauphar, Durand-Ruel bought back the painting with M. Knoedler & Co before it was sold in 1941 to Kansas City–based collectors Joseph S. and Ethel B. Atha. In 1986, the work was given on partial bequest to the Nelson-Atkins Museum, where it has been on view since 2008. 

“Given the strong interest in Monet’s work in recent seasons, and with this being such a fine and rare example with exceptional historic provenance, we expect collectors to be very excited by this opportunity,” Imogen Kerr, co-head of Christie’s 20th century evening sales told ARTnews. “Exceptional works by Monet have universal appeal and we expect Moulin de Limetz to generate significant interest around the world.”

Deaccessioning, the practice of museums selling art from their holdings, is common, though it has in recent years proven particularly controversial as institutions take advantage of recently relaxed guidelines for the process. The Monet is the most high-profile work to depart a museum’s galleries that announced for auction this May.

A Christie’s representative said that the Monet wasn’t being deaccessioned, since it was never fully owned by the Nelson-Atkins Museum. According to the house’s announcement, the work was being sold to “benefit future art acquisitions” at the museum.

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