Picasso Women of Algiers – Most Expensive Painting Ever Sold At Auction
The art world achieved a new record on Monday night, as the painting Women of Algiers (Version O) by Pablo Picasso sold at Auction for $179 million at Christie’s in New York.
While the auctioneers at Christie’s expected the piece to reach the $140 million mark, they were astounded when competing bids from several patrons drove the painting’s value past the previous world record holder, Francis Bacon‘s Three Studies of Lucien Freud, which had sold for $142.4 million in 2013.
Experts at Christie’s say that the world-record setting price was the result of the combination of renewed interest in Modernist works in recent years, as well as an influx of bids by new, younger collectors. Professor Sarah Lichtman, of the Curatorial and Design History program at the New School, says that demand for Cubist and Impressionist work is at an all-time high because the pieces are “beautiful, accessible and a proven value”.
The painting itself is a true achievement in Cubist portraiture. It features the figure of a woman sitting, eyes gazing at the viewer with breasts exposed, in the foreground, with another, more abstracted reclining nude to her right. In the background, several more prismatic nudes can be seen, their abstraction highlighted by their refracted reflections in what appears to be a mirror or doorway. Stripes in red, ochre, and earthy greens vibrate across the angled dimensions of the room, furthering the sense of rhythm in the painting.
Picasso’s Women of Algiers (Version O) painting was already a breathtaking masterpiece; its ample beauty can now be said to match its extraordinary price tag.
Why is Picasso’s Women of Algiers Painting so important?
Picasso’s painting “Les Femmes d’Alger” or “Women of Algiers” holds significant importance for several reasons:
- Artistic Innovation and Cubism: The painting is a prime example of Picasso’s exploration of Cubism, an innovative artistic movement he co-founded. Cubism aimed to depict objects and subjects from multiple viewpoints, breaking them down into geometric forms and reassembling them in abstract and fragmented ways. “Women of Algiers” showcases Picasso’s mastery of this style, pushing the boundaries of traditional representation.
- Homage to Delacroix and Orientalism: Picasso’s painting is a tribute to the French Romantic artist Eugène Delacroix’s work “The Women of Algiers in Their Apartment.” By revisiting and reinterpreting Delacroix’s piece, Picasso engages with art history, interweaving his modern vision with a reference to a classical masterpiece. This connection invites viewers to consider the evolution of art across time periods.
- Cultural and Historical Significance: The painting reflects Picasso’s fascination with North African and Middle Eastern cultures, especially evident in the title “Women of Algiers.” This fascination was part of a broader interest in primitivism and non-Western aesthetics that many artists explored during the early 20th century. The artwork encapsulates the cultural exchange and influence that characterized the era.
- Record-Breaking Auction Price: In 2015, “Women of Algiers (Version O)” became the most expensive painting ever sold at auction, fetching a staggering $179.4 million. This record-breaking sale highlighted the enduring appeal and significance of Picasso’s work, as well as the ongoing intrigue surrounding the art market.
- Impact on Modern Art: Picasso’s innovative approaches to form and representation, as demonstrated in “Women of Algiers,” had a profound impact on the trajectory of modern art. His influence can be seen in subsequent art movements, including abstract expressionism, pop art, and contemporary art. The painting’s unique style and historical context continue to inspire artists and art enthusiasts worldwide.
Overall, Picasso’s “Women of Algiers” is important not only for its artistic and stylistic qualities but also for its role in the evolution of art movements, its engagement with art history, and its record-breaking impact on the art market.