Picasso painting sets new auction record

Pablo Picasso regained the title as the world’s most expensive artist on Tuesday after one of his paintings fetched $106.5m – the highest price for an artwork sold at auction, smashing the previous record made just three months ago.

The painting, “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust”, was sold to a telephone buyer at Christie’s New York auction after nine minutes of intense bidding. The auction house declined to identify the new owner.

A portrait of Picasso’s blonde mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter, the 1932 work from one of the most creative periods of his career helped the Spanish artist regain the trophy that he lost to Alberto Giacometti, one of whose sculptures was sold for £65m ($104.3m) in February.

Before that, the record was held by another Picasso painting, “Garçon à la pipe”, which fetched $104.2m in May 2004.

The speed in which the new world record was set underlined the strength and growing confidence in the art market, which has been recovering strongly. Last month, Sotheby’s held its biggest auction in Hong Kong since it started doing business in the city 37 years ago.

Christie’s said the Picasso work was the star lot of its evening sale of impressionist and modern art. The sale, dominated by US and European collectors, saw $335.5m worth of art change hands.

“This was a stellar night for Christie’s and for the art market,” said Marc Porter, chairman of Christie’s Americas.

Painted in rich blues, pinks and greens, the Picasso work was the centrepiece of the Brody collection, one of the most important private collections of modern art in the US. Its 27 lots, including other works by Picasso and sculptures by Giacometti, achieved $224.2m on Tuesday, making it the biggest ever single owner sale at Christie’s New York.

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