Picasso artworks sell for combined $135M at Las Vegas auction

Eleven Pablo Picasso artworks have been sold for a combined $109 million US ($135 million Cdn) in a Las Vegas auction coinciding with the artist’s 140th birthday.

The nine paintings and two ceramic pieces had been displayed inside the Picasso restaurant at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art for more than two decades until owner MGM Resorts decided earlier this year to sell them.

The Saturday event was organized by Sotheby’s and marked the first time the famed auction house staged an evening marquee sale in North America outside its New York saleroom. It featured Picasso artworks from 1917 to 1969.

Auction officials said Picasso’s 1938 portrait of his muse Marie-Thérèse Walter entitled Femme au béret rouge-orange (Woman in a reddish-orange hat) sold for $40.5 million US after a bidding battle, well above estimates of $20 million to $30 million US.

Sotheby’s art handlers prepare Aiguiere — Visage, a terracotta sculpture by Picasso, for display during the auction. (Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images)

Auctioneer Oliver Barker calls bids. The auction marked the first time Sotheby’s staged an evening marquee sale in North America outside its New York saleroom. (Bridget Bennett/Reuters)

A closeup of Femme au béret rouge-orange (Woman in a reddish-orange hat), which sold for $40.5 million US after a bidding battle. (Wade Vandervort/Las Vegas Sun/The Associated Press)

The painting last sold at auction in the 1980s for around $900,000 US and was acquired by casino mogul Steve Wynn in 1998 and became the property of MGM Resorts when the company purchased the Mirage resort from Wynn.

The Picasso auction also featured two Cubist-inspired still life paintings from the early 1940s during the Second World War with Nature morte au panier de fruits et aux fleurs selling for $16.6 million US and Nature morte aux fleurs et au compotier going for $8.3 million US.

Homme et enfant, a 1959 work that is nearly two metres tall, sold for $24.4 million US.

A buyer places a bid during the auction, which organizers say drew about 150 people. (Ellen Schmidt/The Associated Press)

The auction featured Picasso artworks from 1917 to 1969. (Ellen Schmidt/The Associated Press)

Brooke Lampley, Sotheby’s chair and worldwide head of sales for global fine art, centre, speaks on the phone with a buyer during the auction. (Ellen Schmidt/The Associated Press)

The sculpture Tête d’homme barbu is shown on a screen during the auction. (Ronda Churchill/AFP/Getty Images)

Picasso was born in Málaga, Spain, on Oct. 25, 1881, and died in 1973. He spent much of his adult life in France.

Over the course of more than 70 years as a working artist, Picasso is said to have created more than 13,000 paintings.

Organizers said the auction lasted about 45 minutes and drew about 150 people, with some seated in gold-framed chairs.

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