Iconic Picasso masterpiece expected to fetch US$140 million

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Les Femmes d’Alger (Version 'O') by Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger (Version “O”) is expected to fetch US$140 million when it goes on the block at Christie’s New York on Monday, May 11.

The painting will be one of several masterpieces offered in ‘Looking Forward to the Past’, a sale created in the spirit of the many curated auctions Christie’s has organized in New York and London in recent years.

This vibrantly-hued painting is the final and most highly finished work from Picasso’s 1954-55 series in which he looked back to 19th century French master Eugene Delacroix for inspiration, and in the process created a new style of painting.

Previously sold at Christie’s in 1997, as part of the legendary record-breaking sale of the Collection of Victor and Sally Ganz, Les femmes d’Alger (Version “O”) is among the first announced highlights of Looking Forward to the Past, a sale that focuses on the major artists of the 20th century and reflects a growing trend of cross-category collecting among Christie’s clients.

“From the auctioneer’s rostrum it has become clear that the many new global collectors chasing masterpieces have been waiting for an iconic Picasso to appear on the market. None is more iconic than Les femmes d’Alger. The sale on Monday 11 May promises to be a sale to remember,” said Jussi Pylkkanen, Christie’s global president.

Olivier Camu, deputy chairman, Impressionist and Modern Art, added: “Les femmes d’Alger, (Version “O”) is the culmination of a herculean project which Picasso started after Matisse’s death, in homage to his lost friend and competitor, and which over a period of two months and after nearly 100 studies on paper and 14 other paintings led to the creation of this phenomenal canvas in February 1955.

“With its packed composition, play on cubism and perspective, its violent colors, and its brilliant synthesis of Picasso’s lifelong obsessions, it is a milestone in Picasso’s oeuvre and one of his most famous masterpieces, together with Les demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907 and Guernica, 1937. One can arguably say that this is the single most important painting by Picasso to remain in private hands. Its sale on 11 May will be a watershed moment in the market for 20th century art.”