With a $180 million Picasso, art market enters a new frontier

Tue May 12, 2015 4:26pm EDT
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By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - When Picasso's "Les Femmes d'Alger (Version O)" set a record on Monday as the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction, it was by a wide margin of nearly $40 million, fetching just under $180 million.

Christie's' sale of 35 works spanning the 20th and nascent 21st centuries also became the first auction at which two works each topped $140 million, when Giacometti's "Pointing Man" bronze sold for a record $141.3 million.

While Christie's did not identify any buyers of the top 10 lots, even by region, officials said a bevy of new collectors had entered the market in just the last five years or so - and at the very top echelons.

"We have entered a new era of the art market," said Jussi Pylkkanen, Christie's global president, after Monday's sale.

"Collectors from all parts of the world compete for the very best across categories, generating record prices at levels we have never seen before."

The Picasso surpassed the $142.4 million paid for Francis Bacon's "Three Studies of Lucian Freud" in November.

Pylkkanen said bidders at the highest levels, including Christie's' top nine lots which each fetched some $25 million or far more, have probably only been in the market for five or six years.

"That is going to continue," he added.   Continued...

A man pauses to look at Pablo Picasso's "Les femmes d'Alger (Version 'O')" (Women of Algiers), estimated at $140 million, at a media preview for Christie's May 11 impressionist, modern and contemporary art sale in the Manhattan borough of New York May 1, 2015. REUTERS/Darren Ornitz