Picasso artwork reaches astronomical $103million at auction

by Deborah Cater
Picasso artwork doubles estimate at Christie's auction
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NEW YORK – Christie’s New York auctioned a painting by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) Thursday achieving the equivalent of €85million. The Picasso artwork is now one of five by the Spanish painter valued at over $100million.

The painting, Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse), was the star of Christie’s 20th Century Art auction.  A large and colourful portrait of Picasso’s muse and mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, experts estimated the price at $55 million. Following a  20-minute battle, it sold for double.

Two buyers competed by telephone. The opening bid was $45 million, moving to $55 million. The final hammer price was $90 million, to which commissions and taxes were added.

Unique work

Picasso's Femme assise près d'une fenêtre

Considered an exceptional work by Picasso, the canvas is almost two metres high and 1.14 metres wide. Usually, Picasso painted Marie-Thérèse lying down, naked, with her eyes closed and lost in thought. However, in this piece she is sitting on a black chair near a window.

Peak year

Moreover, it was painted in ‘peak year’ 1932, one of the artist’s most productive and most coveted years. “Everyone wants one of his works from 1932,” said Vanessa Fusco, the co-director of Christie’s 20th Century Art auction. Picasso painted the portrait in Normandy. It is part of a series of portraits of Marie-Thérèse shown in the exhibition ‘Picasso, 1932: Love, Fame, Tragedy,’ on view at London’s Tate Modern museum and Paris’ Musée de Picasso in 2017 and 2018.

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Symbolic amount

The Picasso artwork auctioned on Thursday sold in London eight years ago for the equivalent of €44.8 million. Five of Picasso’s works have now crossed the symbolic boundary of $100million. The most expensive Picasso is Les femmes d’Alger (Version O); this painting changed hands in 2015 for $179.4 million.

More Spanish works

Shortly after the sale of the portrait of Marie-Thérèse, another painting by Picasso, Femme dans un fauteuil, went under the hammer. The estimate for this painting was between $15-20million. It eventually sold for ‘only $14.7 million’, ($17.1 million including all fees and taxes).

A third Picasso, Tête de femme, sold for the ‘modest’ sum of $4.1 million, though it still exceeded the expected top price of $3.5 million.

At the same auction, a voluminous sculpture by Joan Miró, Femme (Femme debout,) fetched $4.1 million, far below the expected lower estimate of $7 million.

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