Picasso has broken the bank in Las Vegas. Eleven works by the Malaga genius that for decades decorated the halls of the legendary Bellagio hotel, sold for more than 85 million euros (almost 100 million dollars) in the Sotheby's auction at the same venue. Among them was a portrait of Picasso's muse and lover, Marie-Thérèse Walter, which sold for about 35 million euros, eight million more than the starting price.
The jewel in the crown of this auction from the MGM Resorts company collection was Femme au Béret Rouge-Orange (Woman in an Orange Beret), one of the last portraits that Picasso made of Marie-Thérèse Walter, his muse and lover who inspired many of his most iconic works of the 1930s.
It was auctioned for 35 million euros, well above its starting price, which was estimated at between 17 and 25 million euros. Picasso painted the mother of his daughter Maya in 1938, when his heart had already been captured by the photographer Dora Maar.
The portraits painted by Picasso during this period "reveal characteristics of both women and reinforce the exceptional nature of Marie-Thérèse's paintings," Sotheby's experts claimed. Marie-Thérèse Walter's plump face "is accentuated by the palette of yellow and green tones used by Piccaso in this painting, which remained in his private collection for decades," they noted.
The portraits Man and Child (Homme et Enfant) and Bust of a Man (Buste d'homme) sold for 20 and 8 million respectively. The latter was below the estimated starting price of 10 million. Other works considered minor such as small ceramics or Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe (Breakfast on the Grass) that sold for 1.9 million, were auctioned three or four times above their estimate.
The Sotheby's auction was held at the Bellagio hotel, where the paintings had hung for years and took place two days before the artist's birthday, which is celebrated this Monday, 25 October. Five of the paintings had decorated the walls of the hotel's elegant restaurant, which will keep 12 other works that have not been auctioned.
MGM Resorts sold the artworks to further diversify its vast art collection and include more women, artists from emerging ethnic groups and nations, or LGBT creators and those with disabilities. American museums and art galleries have been working to expand their collections along these lines in the wake of widespread cultural recognition in 2020 of racism at all levels of American society.
The MGM Resorts Fine Art Collection features nearly 900 works by 200 artists, including modern pieces by Bob Dylan and David Hockney. It was started more than 20 years ago by Steve Wynn, former owner of the Bellagio and former CEO of Wynn Resorts.