Pablo Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger (Women of Algiers) has become the most expensive painting to sell at auction after fetching $160 million at Christie’s in New York on May 11.
Eleven minutes of prolonged bidding from telephone buyers preceded the final sale – for much more than its pre-sale estimate of $140 million.
Once the bidding reached $120 million, the Picasso was pursued by five clients on telephones, often in agonizingly slow, $1 million increments, before finally being sold to a buyer represented by Brett Gorvy, Christie’s international head of contemporary art.
The final price was $179.3 million including commission of just over 12%.
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.
Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’) is the most opulent and imposing of a series of paintings that Pablo Picasso 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 American 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.
The sale also featured Alberto Giacometti’s life-size sculpture Pointing Man, which set its own record.
The Swiss-born sculptor 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 $103.4 million for the 1961 bronze, Walking Man I, at a Sotheby’s auction in London.
Pointing Man is now the most expensive sculpture sold at auction, after going for $141.3 million. Both buyers chose to remain anonymous.
A hidden portrait has been found by scientists beneath the brush strokes of The Blue Room, a 1901 Picasso artwork.
Art experts and conservators at The Phillips Collection in Washington used infrared technology on the masterpiece, revealing a bow-tied man with his face resting on his hand.
Pablo Picasso created both works in Paris during his famous blue period.
Acknowledged as one of the 20th Century’s greatest artists, Pablo Picasso focused on monochromatic paintings in shades of blue and blue-green during his blue period from 1900 to 1904.
A hidden portrait has been found by scientists beneath Picasso’s painting The Blue Room
The Blue Room has been the subject of exploration since 2008 by experts from the Phillips Collection, National Gallery of Art, Cornell University and Delaware’s Winterthur Museum.
Improved infrared imagery allowed them to see a man wearing a jacket and bow tie, resting his bearded face on his hand with three rings on his fingers.
Technical analysis confirmed the hidden portrait was likely to have been painted just before The Blue Room.
Curator Susan Behrends Frank told press agency AP: “When he [Pablo Picasso] had an idea, you know, he just had to get it down and realize it,” explaining that the artist had quickly painted over another completed picture when the inspiration took him.
“He could not afford to acquire new canvasses every time he had an idea that he wanted to pursue. He worked sometimes on cardboard because canvas was so much more expensive.”
The Blue Room has been part of the Phillips Collection since 1927.
Conservators suspected back in 1954 it may have had another painting below its surface, as brushstrokes did not match the composition of a woman bathing in Pablo Picasso’s studio.
But it was not until the 1990s that an X-ray revealed a “fuzzy image” of something under the main image.
Research on The Blue Room will continue and curators have planned a 2017 exhibition focusing on the painting and the portrait beneath it. It is also part of a tour to South Korea in 2015.
One of Claude Monet’s famous water lilies paintings has sold for $43.7 million at a New York auction.
A painting by Wassily Kandinsky also sold for $23 million at the Christie’s auction of impressionist and modern art, setting a record for the artist.
Works by Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro also went under the hammer in the first of two weeks of major auctions in New York.
However, about 30% of the 69 paintings up for auction failed to find buyers, Reuters reported.
Claude Monet’s oil-on-canvas Nympheas – painting in 1905 during the artist’s years at Giverny – reached the high end of its $30 million-$50 million pre-sale estimate.
Claude Monet’s water lilies painting Nympheas fetches $43.7 million at New York auction
Wassily Kandinsky’s vibrant work Studie fur Improvisation 8 had been estimated to fetch between $20 million -$30 million and was sold by Switzerland’s Volkart Foundation.
The price broke the Russian artist’s previous record of $20.9 million for Fugue set in 1990.
The bronze La Jambe by Alberto Giacometti sold for $11.3 million and the painting Peinture (Femme, journal, chien) by Spanish artist Joan Miro, sold for $13.7 million.
Pablo Picasso’s Buste de femme fetched $13 million.
Among the works that failed to sell were the Picasso sculpture, Coq, estimated at $10 million -$15 million, and works by Chagall and Degas.
Some experts have warned the disparity between art values and the broader economy cannot continue and that while the most coveted works are rising in value, other sectors of the art market are less buoyant.
Nevertheless, Brooke Lampley, head of Impressionist and modern art at Christie’s, said it was a “very, very strong sale, with great results”.
Later on Thursday Sotheby’s will belatedly stage its own Impressionist auction. The sale has been delayed for three days because of Hurricane Sandy.
Among the 68 lots there is much interest in Pablo Picasso’s Still Life with Tulips, painted in 1932 in under three hours.
Next week the two auction houses stage their contemporary sales, where works include Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled 1981. Its sale could set a new record for the painter.
Michel Basquiat rose from being an obscure graffiti artist in New York to become one of the city’s most lionized artists before his death of a heroin overdose in 1988.
A rare piece of art believed to have been inspired by Pablo Picasso in an Evansville museum, actually turned out to be an original work of art.
Evansville Museum of Art, History and Science Curator Mary Bower says there are only approximately 50 of these glass works of art done by Picasso.
The Evansville Museum says the piece titled “Seated Woman with Red Hat” was donated to the museum in 1963.
Museum officials say it was cataloged as art inspired by a design for a Picasso painting but credited to an artist named Gemmaux. That name turned out to be plural for “gemmail,” which is the type of glass used in the work.
The Evansville Museum says Picasso glass artwork titled "Seated Woman with Red Hat" was donated to the museum in 1963
Mary Bower says their research has found Picasso worked with a French studio to make the layered glass art.
She says their research has also found it’s not financially feasible to insure, display and secure the art in their museum.
Mary Bower says the museum’s Board of Trustees has contracted with Guernsey’s of New York to auction the item. She says it could be auctioned off within 6 months.