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American collector pays €2 million for Picasso’s erotic etchings

A series of 100 etchings by Picasso, which depict his personal and political turmoil in the 1930s, has sold for €1.9 million ($2.2 million) in Paris, auctioneers said.

American collector pays €2 million for Picasso's erotic etchings
A visitor walks past Picasso's 'Minotaur drinking with a girl' at a 2009 exhibition of the Vollard Suite etching in Colombia. Photo: AFP

The Spanish-born artist took seven years to complete the prints called the “Vollard Suite”, which deal with his erotic obsessions and marital strife as well as the gathering storm clouds of war over Europe.

The hammer came down on the prints late on Sunday as part of a weekend of sales in the French capital from the collection of art dealer Henri Petiet.

Some 622 lots were sold for €3.3 million, which the auction house Ader Nordmann called an “enormous success”.

It said the Picasso series was bought by an unnamed American collector.

Civil war erupted in Picasso's homeland as he was working on the series, leaving his alter ego in the drawings — the minotaur — lost and blind by the end.

Picasso's technique also developed greatly over the years from his relatively simple early prints of his voluptuous mistress Marie-Therese Walter in the arms of a bearded sculptor, to the darker later pictures where she leads a blind, impotent minotaur by night.

The final three prints are portraits of the French art dealer Ambroise Vollard, who commissioned the series in 1930, giving Picasso paintings by Renoir and Cezanne in exchange.

With no telephone or online bidding allowed for the Paris sale, “there was an unbelievable atmosphere in the room,” auctioneer David Nordmann said, which led to the “exceptional result”.

Only a handful of galleries have a complete collection of the drawings: the Picasso Museum in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery in Washington and the British Museum, which acquired its set for one million pounds (€1.1 million) in 2011.

Among the other stellar works in the sale were Renoir's lithography “Pinning the hat”, which went for €43,000 — double its estimation — adid Toulouse-Lautrec's “The jockey”, which sold for €40,000.

ART

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.

mata-mua_gauguin-madrid

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.

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