12 May 2015

Picasso breaks records at New York auction

1:24 pm on 12 May 2015

A Picasso oil painting from 1955 has smashed the record for the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction when it soared to $US179.4 million at Christie's on Monday.

The auction house had estimated Les femmes d'Alger (Version 'O') would sell for about $US140 million, but several bidders competing via telephone drove the winning bid to $US160 million, for a final price of $US179,365,000 including Christie's commission of just over 12 percent.

The buyer was not identified.

Jussi Pylkkanen, president of Christie's, takes bids in New York art work, "Les femmes d'Alger" by Pablo Picasso.

Jussi Pylkkanen, president of Christie's, takes bids in New York art work, "Les femmes d'Alger" by Pablo Picasso. Photo: AFP

Giacometti's 1947 sculpture, L'homme au doigt, set a new world record for sculpture, selling for $141.3 million, in line with the pre-sale estimate of about $130 million. The old sculpture record was $104.3 million, held by Giacometti's L'Homme qui marche I since 2010.

As expected, the Picasso work was the highlight of Christie's special Looking Forward to the Past sale, which spanned collecting categories to include artists from Monet to Warhol, with an estimated total of about $US500 million for the 35 works on offer.

Bidding for the Picasso started at $US100 million, as deep-pocketed collectors drove the price steadily upward in $US1 million increments. The same work was last auctioned in 1997, when it sold for $31.9 million, which was nearly three times its pre-sale estimate.

Previously the most expensive work sold at auction was Francis Bacon's triptych Three Studies of Lucian Freud, which sold for $142.4 million at Christie's in November 2013.

Another Picasso, Buste de femme (Femme a la resille) fetched $US67.4 million, beating the high estimate of $US55 million.

- Reuters

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