Flash News: Picasso – Qi Baishi – El Greco



Every fortnight, Artprice provides a short round up of art market news: New world record expected for Picasso. Record expected for Qi Baishi vs. Picasso. El Greco resurfaces

Nouveau record mondial attendu pour Picasso

Christie’s auction house expects to achieve a new world record for an auction piece, with a major canvas by Pablo PICASSO, estimated at approximately USD 140m. The history of this work, Les Femmes d’Alger (Version “O”) (The Women of Algiers, Version “O”), is hardly insignificant. First, this 1955 canvas is part of the Femmes d’Alger series inspired by the orientalist work of Eugène Delacroix. Picasso created twenty-some variations around this theme from 1954–1955. This was a major period for the artist, during which he paid homage (not without humour or irony) to the great masters of the past, including Velasquez, Manet and Poussin. Moreover, Les Femmes d’Alger (Version “O”) displays an especially prestigious pedigree, as it belongs to the renowned collection of Americans Victor and Sally Ganz. A look back in time: the Ganz couple were social climbers, and during a period of forty years, they amassed the largest privately held Picasso collection, including several hundred etchings, ten drawings, five sculptures and twenty-some canvases, four of which are from the Femmes d’Alger series. The first Picasso in the Ganz collection was Le Rêve (The Dream), well-known canvas from 1932, acquired for USD 7,000 in 1941. Upon Sally Ganz’s death, her children put Christie’s in charge of selling part of the collection. Le Rêve soared, selling for USD 44m (USD 48.4m including fees) and Les Femmes d’Alger (Version “O”) for USD 29m (USD 31.9m including fees). Christie’s conducted the largest private collection sale of that time (with USD 206 million in resulting sales). If the company manages to sell Les Femmes d’Alger for USD 140m on 11 May 2015, the current record for Picasso would be locked in at nearly USD 50m…

Record expected for Qi Baishi vs. Picasso

A new world record is also expected in Beijing for the Chinese “Picasso”, known as Qi Baishi (1864-1957). QI Baishi is the greatest Chinese painter of the 20th century, and Pablo Picasso held him in high esteem. This giant of Chinese modern art, who was equally admired by the well-read Chinese and the masses, will likely achieve a new price record, commensurate with the great modern artists of the West. We cannot forget that it was Qi Baishi who created the most expensive Chinese piece in the world, with Eagle Standing on Pine Tree, an ink painting with a four-character couplet in seal script, which sold for the equivalent of USD 57m in 2011 in Beijing (USD 65.7m including fees at China Guardian).

This three-part work was comprised of one ink drawing and two calligraphies. This time the Poly International Auction house announced the sale of a rare set of twelve landscapes…twelve scrolls, each of which measures nearly two metres in length, which were completed in 1925, when Qi Baishi’s art had reached full maturity. This set was offered by the artist to his friend Chen Zilin (respectable doctor well-known at that time), before being bought by Guo Xiuyi, a high-society man and passionate art collector. The twelve drawings were kept in the family collection until now. Today they could sell for USD 160m at auction and lead to a new world record in auction sales. With the Chinese market’s rise in power, annual sales of Qi Baishi have already shown themselves to be greater than those of Picasso (USD 510m in works sold in 2011). The year 2015 opens on a new clash of titans featuring these Western and Chinese masters.

El Greco resurfaces

A renowned canvas from Greco (Dom. Theotokopoulos GRECO EL), severely damaged by the Nazis 70 years ago, has just been reunited with its heirs. This Portrait of a Gentleman, precocious Greek masterpiece, was part of the collection of Jewish manufacturer Julius Priester, a collection of 50 works, pillaged by the Nazis in 1938 in Vienna. For more than 60 years the El Greco canvas changed hands between Europe and the United States, without ever entering an auction house. Private sales were conducted for years, despite a history filled with grey areas. El Greco is rarely encountered in auction houses. However, a gloomy Saint Joseph sold for USD 2.3m (USD 2.7m including fees) at the end of January 2015 at Sotheby’s New York.