The sculptures, which are part of the MGM Resorts Collection, were a feature of the Bellagio Hotel’s Michelin-starred French and Spanish cafe “Picasso,” which is inspired by the artist’s life and work.
MGM claimed the auction, which took place on the artist’s 140th birthday, was the “biggest and most significant” fine art sale ever held in Las Vegas. It was Sotheby’s first nighttime marquee sale outside of New York, and it was organised by the auction house.
“Femme au béret rouge-orange,” or “Woman in a reddish-orange hat,” a 1938 picture of Picasso’s girlfriend and muse Marie-Thérèse Walter, was the star of Saturday’s auction.
“Femme au béret rouge-orange” by Pablo Picasso Courtesy of Sotheby’s and MGM Resorts
The affair between the Spanish artist and Walter lasted from the late 1920s through the 1930s, and she gave birth to their daughter Maya in 1935. Picasso’s portraits of Walter are distinguished by vibrant colours and an air of familiarity.
Sotheby’s projected it would sell for between $20 and $30 million, but it finally sold for more than $40 million.
Picasso, who lived from 1881 to 1973 and spent much of his adult life in France, is widely referred to as the “Father of Cubism” – and “Femme au béret rouge-orange” shows some resemblance to his renowned later pictures of his beloved Dora Maar.
The auction also included two Cubist-inspired still life paintings from the early 1940s during WWII, “Nature morte au panier de fruits et aux fleurs,” which went for $16.6 million, and “Nature morte aux fleurs et au compotier,” which sold for $8.3 million.
“Nature morte au panier de fruits et fleurs” by Pablo Picasso Courtesy of Sotheby’s and MGM Resorts.
The lesser-known pieces, on the other hand, far outperformed their projections, with the 1962 painted terracotta “Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe” – inspired by Edouard Manet’s 1863 picture of the same name – selling for more than four times its maximum price.
A sculpted white pitcher with three faces engraved into its surface was also up for sale. Picasso’s painting, created in 1954, was estimated between $60,000 and $80,000 but sold for $315,000.
Some pieces disclosed personal information about Picasso’s life and work, such as a ceramic tile depicting the window of his workshop “La Californie,” which overlooked the sea in Cannes, France.
MGM stated in an August news statement that the sale will aid in “deepening diversity and inclusiveness” in its art collection. According to Sotheby’s, some of the revenues will be reinvested in the art market.
An MGM spokeswoman told Sotheby’s that the group’s collection still has 12 additional Picasso pieces that will be displayed at the Bellagio’s “Picasso” restaurant in place of the auctioned artefacts.