Picasso masterpiece breaks world record for the most expensive art sold at an auction

The Picasso masterpiece has fetched more than $179 million in New York.

By: Agence France Presse | New York | Published: May 12, 2015 1:38 pm
picasso-main The Women of Algiers: The 1955 painting by iconic artist Pablo Picasso

A Picasso masterpiece has fetched more than $179 million in New York, smashing the world record for the most expensive art sold at an auction in what was dubbed the “sale of the century.”

The oil painting, “The Women of Algiers (Version 0),” sold for $179,365,000 after more than 11 minutes of furious bidding from telephone buyers at a packed auction room at Christie’s yesterday.

Applause erupted when the sale was finalised in an atmosphere of feverish excitement, accompanied by laughter and jokes, fetching way over its pre-sale estimate of $140 million.

The previous world record for a painting sold at auction was $142.4 million, set for British painter Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucian Freud,” which was sold by Christie’s in New York in 2013.

The 1955 painting by Pablo Picasso is one of the last major paintings by the Spanish master still in private hands. He painted several versions until he settled on the nearly four-by-five-foot (121-by-152-centimeter) canvas.

A rival highlight of the evening sale is a bronze statue by Alberto Giacometti called “Man Pointing,” estimated to be worth $130 million, which has also been tipped as a potential record breaker.

“Those two works can set a world record,” Loic Gouzer, senior vice president of Christie’s, said ahead of yesterday’s auction.

Swiss sculptor Giacometti already holds the record for the most expensive sculpture sold at auction with his “Walking Man I” fetching $104.3 million in London in 2010.

Christie’s is offering a total of 35 lots spanning more than a century from 1902 to 2011, and expected to score in excess of $500 million at its swanky New York premises at Rockefeller Plaza.

Exponential growth in the art market, particularly for modern and contemporary works, is attributed to a growing number of private investors around the world and burgeoning interest in Asia and the Gulf.

Artprice CEO Thierry Ehrmann told AFP that interest would be particularly strong for the Giacometti statue, which it believed could go as high as $175 to $200 million and eclipse the Picasso.

“This will be the sale of the century,” said Ehrmann. “It’s a tipping point in the history of art.”

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