Rarely seen Picasso could fetch $80 million at auction

Fri Apr 2, 2010 3:36pm EDT
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By Christopher Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - One of the most valuable private art collections ever offered at auction, led by an $80 million Picasso, will be sold in May in a sign that the art market might soon flirt with the record levels seen before the financial crisis struck in 2008.

The sale of more than 50 works at Christie's from the estate of Mrs. Sidney Brody, a Los Angeles philanthropist who died in November, is conservatively estimated to sell for more than $150 million.

It is one of two prestigious collections being handled by Christie's. The other collection includes 100 works owned by late best-selling writer and director, Michael Crichton.

"This is one of the more remarkable collections of its kind in this country," Christopher Burge, Christie's International honorary chairman said as the works went on public display.

The star of the Brodys' modern art collection, most of which was assembled during the 1950s, is Picasso's "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust," a pristine, vibrant large-scale portrait of Picasso's mistress, Marie-Therese Walter from 1932.

It was the couple's first Picasso, acquired directly from his dealer in 1951 for $19,800. It has not been seen publicly in nearly 50 years.

Christie's estimates the work will sell for about $70 million to $90 million, which would achieve one of the top prices for art at auction. Picasso's "Boy with a Pipe" sold for $104.1 million in 2004 and "Dora Maar with Cat" fetched just over $95 million in 2006.

The art world was electrified in February when a Giacometti bronze "Walking Man, I" soared to $104.3 million and rekindled hopes that prices for rarely available, top-quality works of art could potentially reach stratospheric levels.   Continued...