Picasso painting makes auction history most expensive artwork ever sold - Canada News

A painting by Pablo Picasso made auction history, marking the most expensive painting and artwork sold at auction on Monday evening, May 11, 2015. Picasso's Les Femmes d'Alger, or Women of Algiers (Version O) brought in 179.4 million at a Christie's auction. The painting was part of Picasso's series of 15 paintings that the artist created in 1954-55.

Les Femmes d'Alger the series was inspired by Realist painter Eugène Delacroix's 1834 painting Women of Algiers in their Apartment now in the Louvre. The series was done in honor of Picasso's friend Henri Matisse, who had just died. The series a tribute combined the orientalism of Delacroix's work with the odalistiques of Matisse's. The brightly painted Version O is the last in the series depicting the women of the harem smoking hookahs. Art historian Douglas Cooper described them as "deriving half from Delacroix half from Matisse." The oil painting is in the Cubist style and feature bright hues of red, yellow and blue.

Christie's had high expectations for the sale of the Picasso, expecting it would take in $140 million. The bidding started at $100 million and went up by million dollar increments. Telephone bidding put the painting in record territory going to $160 million and then ending up to 179.4 million including Christies 12 percent commission. The previous record holding most expensive artwork was Francis Bacon's triptych "Three Studies of Lucian Freud," also sold by Christie's in 2013 for $142.4 million.

The painting formerly belonged to "American collectors Victor and Sally Ganz," who purchased the painting in 1956 for only $212,500 from the Galerie Louise Leiris in Paris. Christie's has not made public who purchased the painting this time. The last time this version of Les Femmes d' Alger was on the auction block in 1997 when the Ganz's sold it, Version O garnered $31.9 million, prior to the auction it was only expected to sell for around $10 million.

The painting was a part of "Looking Forward to the Past" auction collection spanning art and sculpture from impressionism to contemporary art from "Monet to Warhol." There were a total of 35 works of art in the auction that in the end garnered $706 million according to Christies website.

Picasso's painting was not the only record-breaking art piece sold in the auction the record was also made for the most expensive sculpture sold at auction. Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti's 1947 sculpture, "L'homme au doigt" (Pointing man) sold at a record $141.3 million. Giacometti beat his own record, previously his "Walking Man I" sculpture had the record for most expensive sculpture sold when in 2010 it took $104.3 million. His Pointing Man was one of six in existence, the sculptor had made six casts, and four are located in museums, one in a private collection, another owned by a foundation. The life size sculpture depicts a stick thin 5-foot-high bronze figure that has his arms outstretched at the sides.

Although some experts, art dealers and historians alike believe, the prices for artworks will continue to rise, art dealer Richard Feigen told the Associated Press "I don't really see an end to it, unless interest rates drop sharply, which I don't see happening in the near future." The prices however, might not hold up for works by Picasso, especially his lesser-known works.

Picasso's granddaughter Marina Picasso, who inherited his estate the 19th-century villa, La Californie and his entire collection of her painting in her twenties after a childhood of poverty where her grandfather ignored her, her brother and father and hardly treated them as family. Marina, 64 has been resentful of her famous grandfather for her whole life, and has slowly sold off works to finance herself and her philanthropies. Now Marina plans to sell off the remaining 10,000 pieces she owns including 300 paintings, flooding the market. The way she plans to sell them is revolutionary, her art dealer died in 2008, and she has used auction houses since then, but now she wants to sell them herself.

Art collectors are worried that will depress the value of Picassos. Associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School Mukti Khaire does not think this would be the case. Khaire explained "In many cases, investors are happy when supply goes up because price goes down and they can purchase more. But in the case of Picasso, and a few others, there's a slight subversion of that principle....If I own a notable Picasso work, I can be reasonably sure it won't lose value. But if I am the owner of a lesser-known Picasso, I might be worried in this case." Patrons who collect paintings like Les Femmes d' Alger have nothing to worry about as the record sale price shows, however the price of his early works and pottery will go down possibly allowing modest collectors the opportunity to own their very own Picasso.

Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News Politics. She has a BA in History Art History a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian, Israeli and international news, anything from crime to human interest stories and everything in between.


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