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Late heiress's art fetches $41 million at auction

Three impressionist paintings from the estate of the late copper heiress Huguette Clark reached a combined total of almost $41 million (€29.4 million) at a recent Christie's auction in New York.

Three impressionist paintings from the estate of the late copper heiress Huguette Clark reached a combined total of almost $41 million (€29.4 million) at a recent Christie's auction in New York.

The trio of paintings included Monet's Water Lilies, which had hung in Clark's Fifth Avenue apartment, and had not been exhibited to the public since 1926 – it sold for $27 million.

The Clark family art collection was founded by Clark's father, copper magnate and US senator William Clark, and a further 400 items from the collection will be up for sale at Christie's this spring.

The estate of the reclusive heiress, who died in 2011 aged 104, made headlines last year when it was revealed she had left 80% of her $300 million fortune to charity, while the remainder was divided between her nurse, doctor, goddaughter and financial and legal advisers.

Clark spent the last 15 years of her life in hospital under a pseudonym while her vast properties stood empty, and she intended the majority of her money should be used to set up an art and culture foundation.

Nineteen of her distant relatives, whom she had specifically written out of her legacy, contested and successfully overturned the will, on the grounds she had been "incompetent" due to her old age at the time it was made.

In her will, Clark wrote: "I intentionally make no provision in this my last will [and] testament for any member of my family, whether on my paternal or maternal side, having had minimal contact with them over the years."

Clark's relatives were awarded a $34.5 million settlement; despite the fact 14 of the claimants admit to never having met the heiress.

Her nurse, who worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for Clark for the last 20 years of her life, received nothing, and was ordered to repay $5 million in gifts back to the estate.

Ethel J. Griffin, New York County's public administrator, who oversees the estate, said: "We are pleased with the results Christie's has achieved for these paintings from the Clark family collection this evening.

"The proceeds from tonight's sale will benefit the Clark estate and its goal of establishing a charitable foundation devoted to arts and culture. We look forward to the sale of additional property from the Clark Family Collection at Christie's this June, which will further benefit the estate." 

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