Christie's is taking the pulse of the art market with a Picasso portrait

·2-min read
"Femme assise près d'une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse)" by Pablo Picasso will go to auction at Christie's on May 11.

The year 2020 was particularly tough for the art market. While online sales may have saved the day, auction houses are now looking to prestigious lots to boost their activity. Christie's will offer a portrait by Pablo Picasso during its next New York sale. Its estimate? 55 million dollars.

"Femme assise près d'une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse) (Woman Sitting Near a Window)" pays tribute to one of the Spanish artist's most emblematic mistresses and muses, Marie-Thérèse Walter. It belongs to a series of about a hundred paintings of the young woman that Pablo Picasso painted in 1932. A pivotal year in the work of the painter, according to William Rubin. "There is no doubt that 1932 marks the peak of fever-pitch intensity and achievement [of Picasso], a year of rapturous masterpieces that reach a new and unfamiliar summit in both his painting and sculpture," the late historian of art once wrote.

Picasso's paintings from this period are particularly popular with collectors, often reaching auction highs. "Le rêve" went for $155 million in 2013, while "Femme nue couchée au collier (Marie-Thérèse)" more recently sold for 14.6 million pounds ($20.2 million) at Christie's.

"Femme assise près d'une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse)" could follow in the path of those paintings. Christie's estimates that it could fetch nearly 55 million dollars during its "20th Century Art Evening Sale," to be held May 11 in New York. That's $10 million more than the last time it appeared on the market in 2013. At the time, Sotheby's estimated it more modestly at $25 million.

This portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter will be offered at auction a few months after Christie's redesigned its sales categories. The "Impressionism and Modern Art" category has thus become "20th Century Art", while "Post-War and Contemporary" has been renamed "21st Century Art." A decision that, according to the auction house,"reflects evolving market demand and the collecting habits of our clients" while seeking to "make new stylistic connections, approach topics such as race and revolution from a new lens, and create space to amplify voices that have been historically overlooked and undervalued."

Caroline Drzewinski