Picasso’s Women of Algiers has become the most expensive painting to sell at auction, going for $179.3m (£115m) at Christie’s in New York.
Eleven minutes of prolonged bidding from telephone buyers preceded the final sale – for much more than its pre-sale estimate of $140m. The evening sale also featured Alberto Giacometti’s life-size sculpture Pointing Man, which set a record as the most expensive sculpture, at $141.3m. The buyers chose to remain anonymous.
The Picasso oil painting is a vibrant, cubist depiction of nude courtesans, and is part of a 15-work series the Spanish artist created in 1954-55 designated with the letters A to O. The final price of $179,365,000 includes Christie’s commission of just over 12%.
The previous world record for a painting sold at auction was $142.4m, for British painter Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of Lucian Freud. That sold at Christie’s in 2013.
Experts believe the investment value of art is behind the high prices. “I don’t really see an end to it, unless interest rates drop sharply, which I don’t see happening in the near future,” said Manhattan dealer Richard Feigen.
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