Picasso painting smashes record with $179 million bid

By Danielle Haynes  |  May 11, 2015 at 7:51 PM
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NEW YORK, May 11 (UPI) -- A Pablo Picasso painting of scantily clad women broke the record for the highest price ever fetched by a piece of art at auction with a bid of $179 million.

The painting, "Les femmes d'Alger (Version 'O')," fetched $179.37 million Monday at a Christie's auction in New York.

The famed Spanish painter completed the piece as part of his 1954-55 series inspired by 19th century French artist Eugene Delacroix. Les femmes d'Alger was the final work of that series and was also considered an homage to fellow artist Henri Matisse, a contemporary.

"Les femmes d'Alger, (Version 'O')" is the culmination of a herculean project which Picasso started after Matisse's death, in homage to his lost friend and competitor, and which over a period of two months and after nearly 100 studies on paper and 14 other paintings led to the creation of this phenomenal canvas in February 1955," said Olivier Camu, deputy chairman, impressionist and modern art with Christie's, prior to the auction.

The painting was originally valued at $140 million, $34 million more than ever fetched for a Picasso painting. "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust" sold for about $106.5 million at an auction at Christie's in 2010.

The previous record for amount paid at auction for a painting was for a 1969 triptych by Francis Bacon, "Three Studies of Lucian Freud," which sold for a whopping $142.2 million

The Picasso painting wasn't the only item to set a world record at Monday's auction. A sculpture by Italian artist Alberto Giacometti sold for $141.28 million.

"L'homme au doigt (Pointing Man)" had an estimated value of $130 million, several millions of dollars more than the most previously paid for a piece of sculpture of $104.3 million. The previous world record was set in 2010 with the sale of another Giacometti piece, "Walking Man I."

The bronze sculpture stands 5 feet, 10 inches tall and features a pencil-thin figure with one arm pointing, another raised behind its head. The piece was cast in 1947.

'Pointing Man is unquestionably Giacometti's greatest sculpture,' said Jussi Pylkkanen, global president of Christie's. 'Executed after the War in one incredible night of creative fervour, this noble figure points mankind to a brighter future beyond our limited horizons.'

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