Picasso painting sets record for most expensive art sold at auction

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Image: Christie's

There are few investments one can make that are almost guaranteed to appreciate in value, and one of the most popular is art. Christie’s knows this all too well, and the thriving fine art auction house made history this week with the sale of $1.4 billion worth of art.

Christie’s 20th century art sales in New York broke numerous records on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, including the sale of a $179.4 million Picasso painting, the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction.

The brightly-hued and high contrast Pablo Picasso painting, Women of Algiers (Version O), sold May 11 at a staggering price, just short of $180 million, making it the world auction record for any work of art. The painting, oil on canvas, was completed on February 14, 1955.

Monday’s Looking Forward to the Past auction of 20th century art was curated by Loic Gouzer, International Specialist, Post-War and Contemporary Art, and included approximately 25 lots created between 1902 and the end of the century. The sale included paintings, drawings, and sculpture by artists including Claude Monet, Piet Mondrian, Egon Schiele, Marcel Duchamp, René Magritte, Pablo Picasso, Jean Dubuffet, Mark Rothko, Alexander Calder, Martin Kippenberger, and John Currin, among others.

But Picasso’s work was not the only notable headline from this week’s auctions; over three days, the art house hammered off the sale of $1.4 billion worth of art.

Tuesday’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale Session 1 garnered a total of $45,635,750 with top-sellers being two Andy Warhol silkscreens fetching roughly $2.3 million each. Wednesday’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale yielded a hefty $658,532,000, but it was Monday’s Looking Forward to the Past event that earned the week’s highest sales at $705,858,000.

While the Picasso sale was a big part of Monday’s success, it was a bronze with patina Alberto Giacometti sculpture from 1947 that net $141,285,000, a world record for the artist and the most expensive sculpture ever sold at auction.

Even Monday’s auction, however, didn’t beat Christie’s record-smashing contemporary art auction in November 2014 that net $852.9 million in one day.

The auction house’s good week hasn’t even finished yet; there remains Thursday’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale Session 2  (which has already net over $65 million as of 10:30 a.m. Thursday) and Friday’s Impressionist and Modern Day Sale and Impressionist and Modern Works of Art Sale.

Christie’s highest selling works of art
May 11 to 13

1. Pablo Picasso, Les femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’) – $179,365,000

2. Alberto Giacometti, L’homme au doig – $141,285,000

3. Mark Rothko, No 10 – $81,925,000

4. Pablo Picasso, Buste de femme (Femme à la résille) – $67,365,000

5. Lucian Freud, Benefits Supervisor Resting – $56,165,000

6. Andy Warhol, Colored Mona Lisa – $56,165,000

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Jill Slattery Jill Slattery was born and raised in Vancouver, where she also earned an Arts degree from UBC in English and Creative Writing. She is an avid TV-watcher and a shameless Taylor Swift fangirl. Jill is a Staff Writer at Vancity Buzz. Contact her at jill@vancitybuzz.com
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