Auction of the Week: Pablo Picasso Masterpiece Sells for an Astounding $139.4 Million
The sale, which was the top lot of Emily Fisher Landau’s auction at Sothebys, marks the second highest price achieved for the artist at auction
Esteemed art patron Emily Fisher Landau, who passed away in March at age 102, acquired around 1,200 works of art in her lifetime. On Wednesday, 31 works from her incredible trove were put on the block at Sotheby’s, in an evening sale of blue-chip modern and contemporary art. The most anticipated lot of the night was Pablo Picasso’s Femme à la montre, a canonical cubist portrait of his muse, Marie-Thérèse Walter, from 1932. The piece was estimated to sell “in excess of $120 million,” and had remained in Landau’s collection since 1968, when she acquired it from Pace Gallery in New York. It hit the block for $139.4 million, with buyer’s fees.
Completed during one of the most intense years of the artist’s life, the portrait of his most famous muse caused a bidding frenzy, as three collectors in different parts of the world competed over the phones. The bidding started at $95 million and quickly went to $115 million before meeting its $120 million estimate. In the end, an anonymous bidder won the piece. (The artist’s auction high is $179.4 million, which was set at Christie’s in 2015.)
Ahead of the sale, Sotheby’s proclaimed the work to be one of the most significant pieces of the artist’s to go up for auction since 2010.
“Emily Fisher Landau’s prescient and unerring eye allowed us to shine a spotlight tonight onto the great artists who now form the bedrock of 20th century art history,” said Brooke Lampley, Sotheby’s Global Chairman, Head of Global Fine Art. “As every single lot found a new home, we saw the enduring appeal of these masters affirmed once again – with the Picasso taking its rightful place as the star lot of the year and American painters reaching new heights.”
Other highlights from the sale include Ed Ruscha’s Securing the Last Letter (Boss), which sold for $39.4 million—the second highest price for the artist at auction; Georgia O’Keeffe, Pink Tulip (Abstraction — #77 Tulip) (1925), realized $5.7 million against a low estimate of $3 million, and there was a new record set for Agnes Martin for her Grey Stone II (1961), which fetched $18.7 million, more than doubling its $8 million high estimate and pursued by eight bidders.
The sale, which now holds the record for the most valuable sale devoted to a female collector in history, will later be complimented by a day sale of another 82 works from the esteemed collection.