Auction record: Picasso for $179m

To a medley of whoops, hollers and gasps on Monday night, Pablo Picasso’s 1955 painting `Les Femmes d’Alger (Version `O’)’ sold for $179.4 million including fees at Christie’s `Looking Forward to the Past’ sale of artworks spanning the 20th century . The price was the highest on record for a work of art sold at auction, the company said, and was well over its estimate of $140 million.

Once the bidding reached $120 million, the Picasso was pursued by five clients on telephones, often in agonizingly slow, $1million increments, before finally being sold to a buyer represented by Brett Gorvy , Christie’s international head of contemporary art.

The previous all-time auction high, also at Christie’s, had been the $142.4 million paid by Elaine Wynn, co-founder of the Wynn casino empire, for Francis Bacon’s `Three Studies of Lucian Freud’ in November 2013.“It’s incredibly difficult to find big, A-plus-quality Picassos fresh to the market,“ said the Paris-based dealer Thomas Bompard. “It’s a price for a unique thing. You can’t replace a painting like that.“

Less than 30 minutes after the Picasso sale, Alberto Giacometti’s gaunt bronze sculpture, `L’homme au doigt (Pointing Man)’ sold for $126 million, or $141.3 million with fees, an auction high for any sculpture. It was the first time that two works estimated at over $120 million each were for sale at the same auction. Picasso’s `Les Femmes d’Alger (Version `O’)’ is the most opulent and imposing of a series of paintings that the Spanish-born artist produced from 1954 to 1955 in response to Eugène Delacroix’s 1834 Orientalist masterpiece, `Women of Algiers’. It had last been on the market in November 1997, when it sold for $31.9 million at a Christie’s auction of works owned by the Ameri can collectors, Victor and Sally Ganz. It was bought at that auction by a Saudi collector and kept in a house in London, said two dealers with knowledge of the matter, who declined to be named because of concerns over confidentiality .Monday night’s seller, who was not identified, had been guaranteed a minimum price by Christie’s, which estimated the work would fetch about $140 million.

The Swiss-born sculptor Giacometti is renowned for his hauntingly emaciated figures made in postwar Paris when Europe was in the grip of Existentialist angst. He became one of the art market’s ultimate trophy names in February 2010 after the billionaire Lily Safra paid £65 million (then $103.4 million) for the 1961 bronze, `Walking Man I’, at a Sotheby’s auction in London. `Pointing Man’, a 5foot-high bronze figure by Alberto Giacometti depicting a skinny man with extended arms, has been in the same private collection for 45 years.

“Pointing Man,“ an earlier, hand-painted bronze from 1947-51, is regarded by many as more compelling. Made in an edition of six, plus an artist’s proof, it had been acquired from the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York in 1970.

Christie’s anonymous seller has been identified as the New York real estate magnate Sheldon Solow, according to The Giacometti had been estimated to sell for $130 million and did not carry any financial guarantees. A less obviously commercial lot than the Picasso, it attracted just two telephone bidders.

Source: The Times Of India


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