WORLD RECORD PRICE TAG--Pablo Picasso’s 1955 Les femmes d’Alger oil on canvas sold yesterday for a world record sum for public auctions totaling $179.4 million. The famed auction house did not reveal the buyer. Reportedly, the painting is heading to a private collection in Europe.
The following is excerpted from Christie’s pre-auction program:
‘To me there is no past or future in my art,’ wrote Pablo Picasso in 1923. ‘If a work of art cannot live always in the present it must not be considered at all. The art of the Greeks, of the Egyptians, of the great painters who lived in other times, is not an art of the past; perhaps it is more alive today than it ever was…’
‘In today’s fast-paced world,’ says Christie’s curator Loic Gouzer, ‘it is remarkable to think that Picasso’s Les femmes d’Alger exhibits as much freshness of perspective and approach as it did when it was painted.’
The vibrant painting is the final and most highly finished work from Picasso’s 1954-55 Femmes d’Alger 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.
‘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,’ explains Olivier Camu, Deputy Chairman, Impressionist and Modern Art.
Picasso painted a series of 15 variations on Delacroix’s Les femmes d’Alger between December 1954 and February 1955, designated as versions A through O. Throughout his series, Picasso references the Spanish master’s two versions of the shared subject, intermingling their elements.
The artist had been fascinated by Delacroix all his adult life, and by Les femmes d’Alger in particular. In addition to being an homage to Delacroix, Picasso conceived the series as an elegy to his friend and great artistic rival, Henri Matisse. Matisse had died in November 1954, five weeks before Picasso began the series. Matisse viewed Delacroix as his immediate forebear in terms of colour and Orientalist subject matter.
Over the years, Les femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’) has been featured prominently in major Picasso retrospectives all over the world, including at The Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1957 and 1980, The National Gallery in London in 1960, the Grand Palais, Paris in 1966-1967, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 1968, and more recently at the survey Picasso et les Maîtres at the Louvre in 2008-2009, as well as at Picasso: Challenging the Past, at London’s National Gallery in 2009, and Picasso & Modern British Art at the Tate Britain in 2012.
‘With its packed composition, play on cubism and perspective, its violent colours, 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,’ says Camu. ‘One can arguably say that this is the single most important painting by Picasso to remain in private hands.’
Previously sold at Christie’s in 1997, as part of the record-breaking sale of the Collection of Victor and Sally Ganz, this iconic work promises to cause a sensation on the global art market this spring. Christie’s holds the world auction record for a work by Pablo Picasso with Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, 1932, sold for $106.5 million in New York in May 2010.
Les femmes d’Alger (Version “O”) now holds the world record for art sold at auction. Other private sales, according to Christie’s, may have surpassed the total spent Monday evening, but such deals are seldom made public. Picasso labeled his Alger series from A to O.
EUGENE DELACROIX ORIGINAL
Women of Algiers in their Apartment (French: Femmes d'Alger dans leur appartement) is an 1834 oil on canvas painting by Eugène Delacroix. It is located in the Louvre, Paris, France. The painting was first displayed at the Salon, where it was universally admired. King Louis Philippe bought it and presented it to the Musée du Luxembourg, which at that time was a museum for contemporary art. After the death of the artist in 1874 the painting was moved to the Louvre, where it is held today.
The painting is notable for its sexual connotations; it depicts Algerian concubines of a harem with a hookah, used to smoke hashish or opium. In the 19th century, the composition was known for its sexual content and its orientalism. The painting served as a source of inspiration to the later impressionists, and a series of 15 paintings and numerous drawings by Pablo Picasso in 1954—WIKIPEDIA.