This is the second highest price ever achieved for this artist who died half a century ago. One of the masterpieces of the Spanish master Pablo Picasso, Woman with a Watch, was sold at auction on the evening of Wednesday November 8 for $139.3 million by Sotheby's in New York.
The 1932 painting depicts one of the Spanish artist's companions, French painter Marie-Thérèse Walter, and had been estimated at more than $120 million, according to Sotheby's. This painting belonged to the wealthy New Yorker Emily Fisher Landau, who died this year at the age of 102, and whose collection of Jasper Johns, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol is being offered for auction during two special evenings Wednesday and Thursday at the Sotheby's headquarters in New York. The painting hung in Emily Fisher Landau's living room in Manhattan, Sotheby's said.
For this Landau collection alone, the auction house - owned by French and Israeli billionaire Patrick Drahi - is counting on more than 400 million dollars. According to Julian Dawes, head of impressionist and modern art sales at Sotheby's, the painting by the Spanish master “is a masterpiece in all its dimensions (...), painted in 1932, “annus mirabilis” for Picasso (year miracles, Editor’s note).”
Marie-Thérèse Walter was Picasso's “golden muse”, his muse whom he met in 1927 in Paris when he was married to the Russian-Ukrainian ballet dancer Olga Khokhlova. This same Marie-Therese Walter had been painted by Picasso in Sleeping Woman (1934) and the painting will be auctioned on Thursday by Sotheby's rival, Christie's, which is hoping for $25 to $35 million. Already in 2021, Christie's sold Woman Seated Near a Window (Marie-Thérèse) for $103 million. Another Picasso from 1932 was sold for $106 million by Christie's in 2010.
Wednesday evening's sale is the second most expensive for Picasso's works, with the artist now having at least six paintings valued above $100 million. His absolute record is Women of Algiers (Version O) at $179.4 million: this oil on canvas painted in 1955 is the most expensive modern work ever sold at auction. At the time of its sale, on May 11, 2015 at Christie's New York, it was even the absolute record for an art auction, since surpassed by the Salvator Mundi awarded to Leonardo da Vinci at $450 million in 2017.
In the international context of wars in Ukraine and the Middle East and inflation, the art market continues to show excellent health: the autumn season in New York for the major auction houses Sotheby's and Christie's which began Tuesday for a week is expected to rake in billions of dollars in sales.