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Picasso painting, Giacometti sculpture set auction records

May 12, 2015

A painting by Pablo Picasso and a sculpture by Alberto Giacometti have set new records at a New York auction house. Experts see no end to rising art prices with wealthy international buyer demand and low interest rates.

"Les femmes d'Alger" von Pablo Picasso
Image: Reuters

Picasso's "Women of Algiers (Version O)" and Giacometti's "Pointing Man" set auction records at Christie's auction sale in New York on Monday night. They were among two dozen masterpieces offered in their "Looking Forward to the Past" sale.

The Picasso painting (photo) sold for $179 million (160.6 million euros) and the Giacometti life-size sculpture for $141 million. The identities of the buyers were not disclosed at the time of the auction.

"Women of Algiers," was painted by Picasso as part of a 15-work series he created in 1954-55 designated with the letters A through O. It reflects his fascination with the 19th-century French artist Eugene Delacroix.

The previous record-breaking artwork was Francis Bacon's "Three Studies of Lucian Freud," also sold by Christie's in 2013 for $142.4 million.

Giacometti's "Pointing Man" bronze sculpture has been in the same private collection for the last 45 years. Of the six casts of the work Giacometti made, four are in museums and one is owned by a foundation.

The previous record for a sculpture sold at auction was also held by the Swiss artist who died in 1966. His "Walking Man" sculpture sold for $104 million in 2010.

Christie's said global sales of impressionist and modern art in 2014 were $1.2 billion, an increase of 19 percent over the previous year.

Experts say prices are being driven by the investment value of artworks and by wealthy collectors seeking out the very best works.

"I don't really see an end to it, unless interest rates drop sharply, which I don't see happening in the near future," Manhattan dealer Richard Feigen said.

Also sold

At the same New York sale, a record was set for British artist Peter Doig when his 1990 painting of a canoe "Swamped," sold for just under $26 million.

Monet's "The Houses of Parliament, At Sunset," painted in 1900-01, sold for $40.5 million.

The 1958 work by Mark Rothko "No. 36 (Black Stripe)," which had never appeared at auction, also sold for $40.5 million. It was sold by German collector Frieder Burda, who exhibited it in his museum in Baden-Baden for several years.

jm/bw (Reuters, AFP)