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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Picasso Sells At Auction For $106.5 Million, A Record For A Work Of Art.

A painting that Picasso created in a single day in March 1932, “Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur (Nude, Green Leaves and Bust),” sold for $106.5 million, a world record auction price for a work of art, at Christie’s Tuesday night. The painting, more than 5 feet by 4 feet, shows Picasso’s mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, both reclining and as a bust. Picasso’s profile can be discerned in the blue background.

The painting broke the record price for a work of art set in February when a Giacometti sculpture, “Walking Man I,” was sold for $104.3 million at Sotheby’s in London. Bidding for the Picasso lasted 8 minutes and 6 seconds; there were six bidders. Nicholas Hall, an expert at Christie’s, took the winning bid by telephone. He declined to say who he was bidding for.

Everyone is betting on the market’s continued strength, realizing that collectors with money to spend are feeling more secure parking their cash in art than in volatile financial markets. Even so, buyers, no matter how rich, are price conscious and want to think they’re getting a bargain. The idea this season is to keep estimates low enough to encourage bidding.

“When you have something great, then the challenge is to convince the consigner to put an estimate that is 10 to 15 percent below the retail price,” said Tobias Meyer, who runs Sotheby’s contemporary-art department worldwide. “It’s all about playing the game of low estimates, and getting people who trust us to play too.”

The estimated price for “Nu au Plateau,” for example, was $70 million to $90 million, though many were banking on it making considerably more.

“Nu au Plateau” has been publicly exhibited only once since 1951. The year it was painted, 1932, is considered a magical time in Picasso’s career because he started creating a series of large-scale, luscious canvases of Marie-Thérèse that were unlike anything he had done before, bigger and more sensual.

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