When you think of the most important artworks ever created, you probably think of them either tucked away in the private collection of a wealthy family, or on display for all to see at a museum. But as it turns out, MGM Resorts in Las Vegas actually owned a sizeable collection of Picasso paintings, which went on sale this weekend at a Sotheby’s auction and achieved an impressive total of US$108,873,350 (AU$144,996,221).
The auction featured a stacked catalogue of some of Picasso’s most revered works, including Femme au béret rouge-orange, a 1938 work that depicted Picasso’s love and muse, Marie-Therese Walter. The sale wasn’t restricted to painted works of art, however, and also featured three ceramic pieces by Picasso in the form of an elegant vase, a tile and a terracotta sculpture.
As you might have expected, the top lots included the Femme au béret rouge-orange, which sold for more than US$10 million above its estimate (US$20million to US$30 million), eventually hammering for US$40,479,000 (AU$53,973,000). The next strongest lot was Homme et enfant, which sold almost perfectly at the middle of its estimate, selling for US$24,393,000 (AU$32,524,000).
The surprise successes of the auction were the trio of ceramic works by Picasso, all of which sold well above their presale estimates. A glazed terracotta tile titled Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe sold for US$2,137,500 (AU$2,847,000) against an estimate of US$300,000 – 500,000, while the vase Aiguière – Visage sold for US$315,000 (AU$420,000) while its estimate was just US$60,000 – 80,000. Finally, the terracotta sculpture titled Tête d’homme barbu had a listed estimate of US$50,000 – 70,000 and went on to be sold for US$239,400 (AU$319,000).
The sale, which coincided with what would have been the 140th birthday of Picasso, was held at the MGM Resorts owned Bellagio hotel (yes, the hotel in Ocean’s 11). It was one of the largest auctions of Picasso’s artwork in recent memory, and was also the first time Sotheby’s held an important North American auction outside of their New York-based salerooms.
According to the Chief Hospitality Officer of MGM Resorts, Ari Kastrati, the artworks were sold to free up cash that would be spent on other artworks for their collection. Kastrati explained that MGM Resorts is looking to create, “an even more inclusive collection that maintains the breadth of our existing portfolio while giving a greater voice to artists from underrepresented communities.”