Picasso piece sets record for art sold at auction

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Picasso’s “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” sold for more than $106 million at Christie’s on Tuesday, setting a record for art sold at auction.

The Picasso, a 1932 work not seen publicly in 50 years, was purchased by an anonymous buyer from a world-class collection assembled by the late Los Angeles art patrons Frances and Sidney Brody.

The vibrant, large-scale depiction of Picasso’s mistress and frequent subject, Marie-Therese Walter, was the top priced work at Christie’s sale of Impressionist and modern art.

The sale netted $335.5 million for the auction house.

“Obviously we’re thrilled” with the final price of $106,482,500 including commission for the Picasso, auctioneer Christopher Burge said afterward. He added that there was “incredible bidding” across the range of 69 works on offer, of which more than 80 percent found buyers.

A record was also set for Georges Braque when “La Treille” sold for $10,162,500, or more than twice the pre-sale estimate.

Christie’s said the sale’s total was its third best, with the $224 million Brody take second only among single-owner sales to the Yves St. Laurent sale in Paris.

Nearly three-quarters of the winning bids came equally from U.S. and European bidders, while one-fourth were categorized as “other,” a designation that includes collectors from the Mideast.

Christie’s Americas Chairman Marc Porter said the sale was also marked by “an extremely heavy rate of participation from new collectors, in new economies.”

The sale, dominated by Picassos and Giacomettis, was not without its casualties, notably Edvard Munch’s “Fertility,” which was estimated around $30 million but went unsold when no one bid beyond $23 million.

But the big spending, especially for the Brody works, spoke to the willingness of deep-pocketed collectors to purchase rare works of impeccable provenance.

Three Giacometti sculptures also saw strong prices. A narrow bust, a forearm with outstretched hand and a walking cat, all bronzes from the Brody collection, fetched $55.3 million, $25.84 million and $20.8 million respectively.

The spring sales continue on Wednesday with Sotheby’s auction of Impressionist and modern art.