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Picasso: The Master of the Auction


Once again, the famed Spanish artist has had another work of his sold for over $100m – making this the fifth piece by him to reach a nine-figure sale. Picasso’s 1932 painting Woman Sitting Near a Window sold for $103.4m in Christie’s New York’s 20th Century Evening Sale on Thursday. The painting sold is a portrait, depicting the lover and muse of Picasso, Marie-Thérèse Walter. The style which Picasso adopts in this painting, of large blocking of muted tones, has resonated with the art market in recent years with two other paintings of the similar style and period selling for over $100m. The renowned artist is the first to have a work sell with a nine-figure sum this decade, with the last work to do so being Claude Monet’s Meules, which sold for $110.7m at a Sotheby’s New York auction in 2019.

The impressive sale figure of the painting indicates that the art market is sustaining recovery, despite the limitations which the pandemic has imposed. The sale of the painting at such a price, perhaps even shocked Christie’s, with the auction house estimating the work to sell for $55m prior to the auction, meaning the final sale was just under double the original evaluation. The piece had previously been sold eight years prior, at Sotheby’s London in 2013 for £28.6m ($44.8m), explaining the estimation for only being $10m more which would have accounted majoritively for inflation. This sale comes after a prosperous start to the year within the art market in America, with the sale of a portrait by Renaissance artist Botticelli for $92m at a Sotheby’s auction in January, which set new records for the Italian artist and ultimately set the tone of the market for the year as well as solidifying New York’s role in the industry. International art sale records were also broken this year with Christie’s selling Basquiat’s Warrior for $41.9m in March during a livestream auction between the London, New York and Hong Kong offices. After its sale was finalised, the painting then became the most expensive Western artwork to be sold in Asia, exhibiting the developing homogeneity in artistic trends occurring within the international art market. 

Although it is easy to assume the art market is prosperous due to the record-breaking sale, you could instead view it simply as a time when a rare Picasso came on to the market, and due to the notoriety of the artist, the sale’s success was an inevitability. Since his death in 1973, Picasso’s works have been growing in both popularity and price, due to the vast extent of the artist’s collection the market is still experiencing this growth as a result. Two other later works by the artist were included in the same auction, along with a separate sale by Christies, solely dedicated to Picasso’s ceramic collection of 91 pieces, exhibiting the omnipresence of his work within the art market. Ultimately, although the previous success of the art market earlier in the year would have aided in increasing confidence in buyers, it does seem that Picasso has yet again exemplified the power and popularity his works still hold, along with the durability of his originality despite the ever-changing trends of the art market. 

Should a Picasso be worth $100 million?

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