The painting, Les Femmes d’Alger, by Picasso the great sold for a record $179,365,000 at an auction Monday in New York, a Christie’s spokesperson said.
The 1955 canvas, “Les Femmes d’Alger (Version “O”) sets a new bar for the contemporary art market. Previously, the most expensive art sold at auction was Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucian Freud,” which went for $142 million in 2013.
Christie’s, the auction house that handled the sale, had expected the Picasso to garner $140 million.
The seller, who bought the painting privately, remains anonymous. The painting was last sold at auction for $31.9 million in 1997.
“Les Femmes d’Alger,” which translates to “The Women of Algiers,” is considered a masterpiece of contemporary art, featuring nude courtesans, a common theme for Picasso, and is painted in the cubist style.
Picasso painted it as an homage to his friend and rival, Henri Matisse, the famous French impressionist, who passed away in 1954.
Jussi Pylkkanen, the auctioneer whose hammer set the price, understood the bidders’ mood. He told the London Telegraph, “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,” he said. “None is more iconic than Les Femmes d’Alger.”