A painting by Pablo Picasso that exposed his passionate desire for his “golden muse” has been sold for $139.4 million (£113 million) at auction.
This establishes Femme à la montre’ (Woman with a Watch) as the most valuable artwork to be sold at auction this year and ranks as the artist’s second highest-grossing work in history.
The successful offer, obtained after “a two-minute standoff among three phone bidders” at Sotheby’s in New York, surpassed the item’s pre-auction estimate of $120 million (£97.8 million).
Julian Dawes, Head of Impressionism to Modern Art at Sotheby’s, stated to Artnet that the high sale price was due to the “delirious effect” Picasso’s relationship with Walter has on art collectors “around the world.”
“That is the one thing that resonates with audiences the most among these other, other, other women,” he explained.
According to Brooke Lampley, Head of Global Fine Art at Sotheby’s and the Spanish artist’s Global Chairman, the 1932 painting can be described as “the pinnacle of public humiliation.” Picasso, who was married to Russian-Ukrainian ballerina Olga Khokhlova at the time, announced French model Marie-Thérèse Walter as his lover during the exhibition of the artwork.
Lampley further characterized the artwork as “Picasso’s Mona Lisa,” further stating: “Established in 1932, as the artist prepares for his major retrospective, one gets the impression that he is symbolically etching his enduring legacy, a retrospective that contemplates his position within the annals of art history. The artworks produced during this period are magnum opi, which signifies the artist at his pinnacle. This painting precisely accomplishes this.
It is believed that Picasso and Walter first met in Paris five years prior, where she was observed loitering outside a department store. Walter continued by recollecting how the artist told her, “You and I are going to accomplish tremendous things together!” after introducing himself.
Walter was a major inspiration for many of his works, demonstrating that he kept his promise. Famed for its portrayal of her, Femme Nue Couchee (Nude Reclining Woman), an additional painting from 1932, was sold for $67.5 million (£55 million) at auction in 2022.
Dawes stated to Artnet regarding the sale of “Femme à la montre”: “In the end, this represents an exceptional result and price in the face of genuine competition.”
Prior to the art collector’s 1968 acquisition, the object was under the ownership of Emily Fisher Landau for 55 years. Les Femmes d’Alger (Women of Algiers), a Picasso painting unveiled at Christie’s in 2015 for $179.3 million (£146 million), currently retains the record for the most expensive painting ever sold at auction.
Throughout eight decades, Pablo Picasso, who passed away at the age of 92 in 1973, produced 150,000 artworks. He is widely recognized and significantly impacted as an artist of the twentieth century, sharing the credit for establishing the Cubist movement and inventing collage.
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