Park West CEO explains $179.4 million Picasso sale
Park West Gallery Founder and CEO Albert Scaglione offered his insight into the record-breaking art auction of a Pablo Picasso painting on May 11.
Christie’s New York made art history when Picasso’s 1955 painting, “Les Femmes d’Alger, Version O,” (Women of Alger, Version O) sold for $179.4 million, including fees, to an anonymous collector. This is the highest price recorded for any work of art, shattering the record set in 2013 with the acquisition of Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” for $142.4 million.
UPDATE (5/21): ArtNet News claims the buyer of the painting to be billionaire former Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani.
Scaglione spoke with Michigan’s BIG Show about the record-breaking event, noting that while it was historic, spending this much on art is something that has occurred for thousands of years.
“Why do people pay these kinds of prices for art?” Scaglione said. “There is a long, long history of this – this is nothing new. This goes back to the church, this goes back to the Renaissance where people put a great value on art.”
Scaglione says art is easy to maintain and interest rates are favorable, making it even more desirable to collect. In fact, a growing number of people are collecting art at increasing prices. He said on the same day as the historic Picasso sale, a client acquired a painting by the late master Pino for about $80,000 from Park West Gallery, while another collected a sculpture by neo-expressionist artist Peter Max for $22,000.
Park West Gallery is also no stranger to working with record-breaking artists. Not only does the gallery offer Picasso artwork, but Park West artist Yaacov Agam became the highest-selling Israeli artist when his painting, “Growth,” sold for $698,000 in a Sotheby’s auction in December 2010.
It took 11 minutes of bidding before the Picasso painting was acquired, well above its pre-sale estimate of $140 million. The painting was last sold in 1997 for $31.9 million, much more than its pre-estimate of $10 million.
The painting is a cubist depiction of nude courtesans, and is part of a series of 15 paintings the artist created, labeled ‘A’ to ‘O.’ Picasso began the project after the death of fellow artist Henri Matisse as a tribute to his friend and competitor, starting in December 1954 and ending in February 1955. The 15 variations are based on Eugene Delacroix’s 1834 painting of the same name.
The previous record for a Picasso artwork was his 1932 “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” that reached $106.5 million in 2010.
“Les Femmes d’Alger, Version O” wasn’t the only work of art to break a record on May 11. At the same Christie’s auction, Alberto Giacometti’s “L’homme au doigt” (Pointing Man) from 1947 was sold for $141.2 million, setting a new record for a sculpture sold at auction. This beat the record set in 2010 by about $37 million.
Picasso’s own words neatly sum up the historic event and the prices people gladly pay to collect the art they love: “To me there is no past or future in my art. If a work of art cannot live always in the present it must not be considered at all.”
Listen to the BIG Show radio segment here.