SHARE
COPY LINK

AUCTION

Most expensive painting ever and it’s a Picasso

A masterpiece by Pablo Picasso has fetched a whopping $179 million (€160 million) at auction in New York, smashing the record for the most expensive painting.

Most expensive painting ever and it's a Picasso
Picasso painting Women of Algiers smashed auction records on Monday. Photo: Andrew Burton/AFP

It was the highest price for any work of art sold at auction, Christie's said, but fell short of the $300 million reportedly paid privately by Qatar for Paul Gauguin's painting “When Will You Marry?” in February.

Pablo Picasso oil painting, “The Women of Algiers (Version 0),” sold for €160.9 million after 11 and a half minutes of furious bidding from four to five prospective buyers at Christie's, where two auction rooms were packed.

Applause erupted when auctioneer and global president of Christie's Jussi Pylkkanen finalized the Picasso sale having cut through the frenzied excitement of the bidding war with laughter and jokes.

Just minutes later, the bronze statue by Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti “Man Pointing” broke the record for the most expensive sculpture sold at auction, fetching €126,000 ($141.285 million).

Other world auction records were set for works by artists Cady Noland, Jean Dubuffet, Diane Arbus, Chaim Soutine and Peter Doig, Christie's said.

The auction house listed the buyers as anonymous but said clients from Asia, the Gulf, Russia, Europe and the United States had competed for the top 10 lots of the sale. 

Overall, bidders came from 35 different countries, it said. 

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. 

The previous world record for an artwork sold at auction was €127 million ($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.
 
Giacometti had also held the previous record for the most expensive sculpture sold at auction, formerly occupied by his “Walking Man I” that fetched €93 million ($104.3 million) in London in 2010.
 
'Extraordinary' number of new buyers'
 
“Buyers are coming to Christie's from all over the globe and tonight we saw a huge amount of competition against American bidding from European buyers and also from Asian buyers,” Pylkkanen told reporters.

“The number of buyers competing at the very, very highest levels who have only been in market for last five to six years was extraordinary.”

The Picasso and Giacometti both soared over their pre-sale estimates of $140 million and $130 million respectively.

The 1955 painting by 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 (1.2-by-1.5-meter) canvas.

There are only six casts in the world of “Man Pointing,” a wiry, nearly six-foot (1.8-meter) man holding up one hand and pointing with the other.

One is at the Tate in London and another in New York's Museum of Modern Art.

Christie's sold more than $705 million worth of art at its 35-lot auction of masterpieces spanning more than a century from 1902 to 2011, and scored at its swanky New York premises at Rockefeller Plaza.

The third top lot was another Picasso oil painting, “Buste de femme,” which sold for $67.365 million.

In joint fourth place was a painting from Claude Monet's “The House of Parliament” series and Mark Rothko's 1958 “No 36, Black Stripe,” which both fetched $40.485 million.

The proceeds from public art auctions rose 26 percent from $12.05 billion in 2013 to $15.2 billion in 2014, and grew 422 percent between 2000 and 2014, according to Artprice, a leader in art market information.

“This will be the sale of the century,” Artprice CEO Thierry Ehrmann told AFP earlier of the Christie's evening auction.

New York's spring auction season began last week at Sotheby's, which sold a Vincent van Gogh painting for more than $66 million to an Asian collector. Sales continue until Thursday.

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

SHOW COMMENTS