Picasso's Portrait of His Mistress Sells for $44 Million

From Reuters

Picasso's "Le Reve," a sensual portrait of the artist's 22-year-old mistress and the eventual mother of his daughter Maya, was sold for $44 million at auction Monday.

The work, sold by Christie's from the art collection of the estate of Americans Victor and Sally Ganz, had a pre-sale estimate of $30 million. They had purchased the work in 1941 for $7,000. The buyer was not disclosed.

The modern art collection of the Ganzes--once the nation's largest private owners of Picassos--was expected to shatter the record for a single-session private sale.

The couple focused on a handful of artists during 50 years of collecting: Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella and Eva Hesse, in addition to Picasso, all of whom were to be well represented at the Monday evening auction at Christie's.

Christie's estimated the sale would take in $125 million.

Johns' "White Numbers" is estimated at $5 million to $6 million, Rauschenberg's "Red Interior" should sell for $3 million to $4 million and Stella's "Turkish Mambo" is pegged at $4 million to $6 million, Christie's said.

The auction house has doubled the capacity of its main auction room and added three additional sales rooms to accommodate the 2,000 prospective buyers expected. Telephone lines have been doubled for off-site bidders.

More than 25,000 people have visited Christie's during recent weeks to view the collection, which had never been exhibited in its entirety. The Picasso series "Les Femmes d'Algiers" was displayed in a red gallery built to resemble the Ganzes' "red salon" in their Manhattan home.

With four works taking in $45 million and possibly much more, Christie's $125-million estimate looks conservative. The current record for a private collection is $135.3 million, but that was for a series of sales during 1989-90. Records for individual artists were also expected to fall Monday.

Picasso's "Le Reve," painted with saturated oils in vivid reds and yellows contrasting with hues of purple and lavender, depicts the curvaceous young woman asleep in an armchair, one nipple exposed, with her arms in her lap, and is considered one of Picasso's greatest portraits.

His "Femme Assise dans un Fauteuil," painted in 1913, carries one of the show's highest estimates, at $15 million to $20 million. Another highlight is four of the works in his 15-painting series "Les Femme's d'Algiers," each of which is expected to take in anywhere from $4 million to $12 million.

The works will be sold individually, but Christie's expressed the hope that they would be purchased as a unit and kept together.

The Ganzes kept a low profile socially and were not particularly wealthy. Victor Ganz worked in the family's costume jewelry business and Sally worked at Macy's before they were married.

After his retirement, Ganz served as a trustee and vice president of the Whitney Museum. He died in 1987, and Sally bought only one painting after that, Johns' "Untitled," a 1990 work estimated to sell for $500,000 to $700,000. She died in January.

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