The Market: Record Price for Abstracts

That moment in 1910 when Vasily Kandinsky laid down his brush upon finishing a certain watercolor represents what is often regarded as the birth of abstract painting. Last week Manhattan's Guggenheim Museum put the pioneer abstractionist's modern-day reputation to a bold test: at the London art auction house of Sotheby & Co., the museum offered for sale no less than 50 of its 170 Kandinskys. Fears that such a mass sale might depress the market proved unwarranted. For it was painting from Kandinsky's early abstractionist period that brought the top money—$140,000 for one Improvisation, a record auction price for...

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