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Picasso painting fetches €22 million in NY auction

Pablo Picasso's 1932 oil painting "Le Sauvetage" sold at auction for more than €22 million($31 million) on Wednesday after a bidding war at Sotheby's in New York which saw it surge past its estimated pre-sale price.

Picasso painting fetches €22 million in NY auction
"Le Sauvetage" by Pablo Picasso is on display during a preview of Sotheby's impressionist and modern art evening sale in New York. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand

The surrealist master's enigmatic work – which was last sold a decade ago – went under the hammer for $31.525 million following frenzied bidding over several minutes.

The painting had been expected to fetch between $14 million and $18 million.

The painting was part of 14 Picasso works offered by Sotheby's as part of its auction of Impressionist and Modern Art.

In total, eight lots were sold for an aggregate $62.088 million.

However one of the lots expected to generate most activity – Picasso's "Tete de Marie-Therese" ("Head of Marie-Therese"), valued between $15 million and $20 million, failed to find a buyer.

Another important work "La Seance du Matin" by French master Henri Matisse, sold for $19.205 million, just below its lower estimate of $20 million.

A canvas by French impressionist Claude Monet, "Le Pont Japonais" ("The Japanese Bridge") meanwhile fetched $15.845 million, in line with its estimated range of between $12 million and $18 million.

Sotheby's reported total sales of just under €157 million ($219 million).

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ART

Spanish billionaire banking boss sees jail term doubled over smuggled Picasso

A Spanish court on Tuesday doubled the jail term handed to a former top banker for smuggling a 26-million-euro Picasso painting out of the country onboard a yacht.

Spanish billionaire banking boss sees jail term doubled over smuggled Picasso
Head of a Young Woman by Pablo Picasso Photo: AFP

Former Bankinter boss Jaime Botin, who is 83, was found guilty last month with a Madrid court sentencing him to 18 months in prison and a 52.4-million-euro fine ($58.4 million).

But in a rare turnaround two weeks later, the judge raised the sentence to three years and a 91.7-million-euro fine following what she said was an “error in the imposition of the penalty”, court documents released on Tuesday showed.   

Under the initial ruling, Botin — who also served as a top executive at Santander Bank — had not been expected to spend time behind bars as first-time offenders are usually spared jail for sentences of under two years if convicted of a non-violent crime.   

It was not immediately clear whether Botin would now be jailed, given his advanced age.

Entitled “Head of a Young Girl”, the work was painted by Picasso in Catalonia in 1906 during his pre-Cubist phase. It was purchased by Botin in London in 1977 and brought back to Spain.

Since 2012, Botin, whose family are founder members of the Santander banking group, had been trying to obtain authorisation to export the painting in order to auction it at Christie's in London.

However, the culture ministry refused on grounds there was “no similar work on Spanish territory” from the same period in Picasso's life, with its decision confirmed by Spain's National Court in May 2015, which declared it “unexportable” due to its “cultural interest”.

But barely three months later, the painting was found by French customs officers on board a yacht docked at a harbour on the island of Corsica, who found documents attesting to its value and seized it, saying it had been packaged up to be sent to Switzerland.

They also found documentation stating the painting was not to leave Spain.    

At the time, Botin's lawyers said he was transporting it for storage in a vault in Geneva but the court found him guilty of “smuggling cultural goods” for removing the painting “from national territory without a permit”.

Botin's lawyers had argued against the export ban, noting the painting was acquired in Britain and was on board a British-flagged vessel when seized.    

The painting, whose ownership has now been transferred to the Spanish state, is currently stored at the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid, which houses Picasso's large anti-war masterpiece “Guernica”.

READ MORE: Spanish banker gets jail term for trying to smuggle Picasso masterpiece out of Spain on yacht

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