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New Record for Picasso painting 2004-05-03

Posted by clype in Humanities, Money.

Pablo Picasso’s ‘hauntingly beautiful’ “Garçon à La Pipe” portrait last night became the most expensive work of art in history, when it fetched a staggering 104.1 million USD (58.1 million GBP) at auction in New York.The portrait of an adolescent boy, holding a pipe and wearing a garland of flowers, was painted by the Spanish artist during his “Rose Period” in 1905.

The record price was realised before a packed salesroom at Sotheby’s and outstripped Vincent Van Gogh’s “Portrait of Dr.Gachet”, which went for 46.1 million GBP at Christie’s in New York 14 years ago.

The painting was the centrepiece of the private collection of Mr and Mrs John Hay Whitney, whose treasures were bequeathed to a charitable foundation.

The total sale of 43 works had been expected to fetch up to 85 million GBP at Sotheby’s in New York. The auction house had publicly given a pre-sale estimate of 70 million USD (40 million GBP) to the work by Picasso, which was bought in January 1950 for around 30 000 USD (12 000 GBP) by Mr Whitney, a former United States ambassador to Britain, and his wife, Betsey. Charles Moffett, the co-director of Impressionist and Modern Art at Sotheby’s, said the painting was within a small category of pictures that would fetch 100 million USD. Mr Moffett said:

‘Without question, “Garçon à la Pipe” is one of the most beautiful of the artist’s “Rose Period” paintings and one of the most important early works by Pablo Picasso ever to appear on the market’.

“Garçon à la Pipe”, measuring just over 990mm by 810mm, was first owned by Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and has been exhibited extensively in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, London (the Tate), Paris, Washington and San Francisco since 1951.


It remained in the Whitneys’ private collection until it was bequeathed to the Greentree Foundation, a philanthropic organisation created by Mrs Whitney in 1982, after the death of her husband. Mrs Whitney died in 1998 and left much of her property to the foundation. The model is believed to be a boy who loved to hang around and watch Picasso work at the Bateau Lavoir, in the Montmartre section of Paris.

One month after finishing the painting, the artist abandoned his friends, returned to his studio and crowned the apprentice boy with a wreath of roses, transforming the work into a masterpiece thanks to a sudden whim. Picasso’s work has always sold extremely well at auction. Nine of the artist’s paintings are in the top 20 list of the most expensive ever sold at auction.

Current best — in sixth position — is “Femme aux Bras Croises”, which realised 55 006 000 USD (38 364 859 GBP) in New York in 2000. Among those who were rumoured to be interested in acquiring the painting were Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, Ronald and Leonard Lauder, the heirs of the Estée Lauder cosmetic company, and Steve Wynn, a casino owner.



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