NEW YORK, May 12 (AP): A vibrant, multi-hued painting from Pablo Picasso set a world record for artwork at auction, selling for $179.4 million on Monday night, and a sculpture by Alberto Giacometti set a record for most expensive sculpture, at $141.3 million.
Picasso’s “Women of Algiers (Version O)” and Giacometti’s life-size “Pointing Man” were among dozens of masterpieces from the 20th century Christie’s offered in a curated sale titled “Looking Forward to the Past.”
Christie’s global president, Jussi Pylkkanen, who was the auctioneer, said the two pieces are outstanding works of art. “I’ve never worked with two such beautiful objects,” Pylkkanen said.
The Picasso price, $179,365,000, and the Giacometti price, $141,285,000, included the auction house’s premium. The buyers elected to remain anonymous.
Overall, 34 of 35 lots sold at Monday’s auction for a total of $706 million.
Experts say the prices were driven by artworks’ investment value and by wealthy collectors seeking out the very best works.
Impressionist and modern artworks continue to corner the market because “they are beautiful, accessible and a proven value,” added Sarah Lichtman, professor of design history and curatorial studies at The New School.
“Women of Algiers,” once owned by the American collectors Victor and Sally Ganz, was inspired by Picasso’s fascination with the 19th-century French artist Eugene Delacroix. It is part of a 15-work series Picasso created in 1954-55 designated with the letters A through O. It has appeared in several major museum retrospectives of the Spanish artist.
The most expensive artwork sold at auction had been Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucian Freud,” which Christie’s sold for $142.4 million in 2013.
“Pointing Man,” depicting a skinny 5-foot (1.5-meter)-high bronze figure with extended arms, has been in the same private collection for 45 years. Giacometti, who died in 1966, made six casts of the work; four are in museums, and the others are in private hands and a foundation collection.
His “Walking Man I” had held the auction record for a sculpture. It sold for $104.3 million in 2010.
Among other highlights at Christie’s was Peter Doig’s “Swamped,” a 1990 painting of a canoe in a moonlit lagoon, which sold for slightly less than $26 million, a record for the British artist.
Monet’s “The Houses of Parliament, At Sunset,” a lush painting of rich blues and magenta created in 1900-01, sold for $40.5 million, in line with pre-sale estimates but well short of a record for the artist.
Christie’s also had a Mark Rothko for sale. “No. 36 (Black Stripe),” which had never appeared at auction, also sold for $40.5 million.TLast year, Christie’s said its global sales of impressionist and modern art were $1.2 billion, an increase of 19 percent over the previous year.