Coveted Picasso paintings sell for a fortune in Sweden

Four works by one of the greatest painters of all time have been sold in Sweden for a small fortune, as international buyers jumped at a rare chance to own paintings by Spaniard Pablo Picasso.

Coveted Picasso paintings sell for a fortune in Sweden
Deep pockets were needed to claim one of the works. Photo: Uppsala auktionskammare

The paintings were formally part of the Neuman Collection, a collection of artwork compiled by Swedish businessman Bertil Neuman, who died in 2011. The works, which came to Sweden during the 1970s and 1980s, were auctioned off at Uppsala Auction House (Uppsala auktionskammare) on Wednesday night.

“Go out on the street in any city in any country and ask ‘Who is Pablo Picasso?’. Everyone would know he’s one of the foremost painters of the 1900s,” Uppsala Auction House CEO and Picasso expert Magnus Behed told The Local.

“It’s a world name. So there were customers all over the world interested in these paintings.”

The biggest earner was “Fillette au béret”, a portrait of a little girl done by Picasso in the 1960s, which fetched 26,215,000 kronor ($2.9 million) from a starting price of 12-18 million kronor.

The painting had been showed in London, Paris and New York during October, helping to entice bidders from all over the world.

“’Fillette au béret’, which dates from 1964, is a very typical Picasso painting. If you were to hide the signature, everyone would still know it’s Picasso,” Behed explained.

Uppsala Auction House chief curator Knut Knutson (left) and Behed with “Fillette au béret” Photo: Uppsala auktionskamare

“Nus”, a painting from the latter stages of Picasso’s life, went for 10.53 million kronor ($1.16 million) from a starting price of between 3-5 million kronor. Two of the Spaniard's other works, “Femme nue se coiffant” and “Le repos”, also sold for millions.

Wednesday was the first time that four Picassos had been auctioned off in Sweden.

“Having four of these in Sweden is completely abnormal. It was fantastic. You’d call it a white-glove sale. Everything sold, and for 80 percent over the starting price. So it’s a very big success, a very big success,” Behed beamed. 


Paul Gauguin’s ‘Mata Mua’ returns to Spain

One of French painter Paul Gauguin's most famous paintings, "Mata Mua", will return to a Madrid museum on Monday following an agreement between the Spanish government and its owner, who took it out of the country.

mata mua madrid
Toward the end of his life, Gauguin spent ten years in French Polynesia, where he completed some of his most famous artwork Painting: Paul Gaugin

The artwork had been on display for two decades at Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza museum but in 2020 when the institution closed because of the pandemic, the painting’s owner Carmen Thyssen moved it to Andorra where she currently lives.

Her decision to take “Mata Mua” to the microstate sandwiched between Spain and France raised fears she would remove other works from her collection which are on display at the museum.

“It is expected that the painting will arrive today,” a spokeswoman for the museum told AFP.


In 1989, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza bought Mata Mua at the Sotheby’s auction in New York. Painting: Paul Gauguin

The artwork will go back on display to the public “a few days after” Thyssen signs a new agreement with the Spanish state for the lease of her collection, she added. The deal is expected to be signed on Wednesday.

Painted in 1892 in vivid, flat colours, “Mata Mua” depicts two women, one playing the flute and the other listening, set against a lush Tahitian landscape.

It is one of the stars of Thyssen’s collection of several hundred paintings which are on show at the museum, including works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet.

Her collection had initially been displayed at the Madrid museum as part of a free loan agreement signed in February 2002 that was subsequently extended.

But in August 2021 Spain’s culture ministry announced it had reached an agreement with Thyssen to rent the collection from her for 15 years for €97.5 million ($111.5 million), with “preferential acquisition rights on all or part” of the works. The collection includes a Degas, a Hopper and a Monet.

Aside from housing her collection of works, the museum displays the collection of her late husband, Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Swiss heir to a powerful industrial lineage who died in Spain in 2002.

The Spanish state bought his collection in 1993 from $350 million, according to the museum.