Tonight at an auction at Christie’s, Pablo Picasso’s The Women of Algiers (Version ‘O’), which he painted on Valentine’s Day in 1955, sold for $179.3 million, including buyer’s premium, a record for a work by Picasso, and any work at auction, even when adjusting for inflation. Its estimate, available on request, had been in the realm of $140 million.
Bidders fought for the work via telephone, with no competitors in the room. “Still many people in the game,” Jussi Pylkkanen, the auctioneer, declared when bidding reached $140 million. The battle eventually narrowed to just Loic Gouzer and Brett Gorvy, each with a phone to his ear.
Gorvy won, with a $160 million hammer price.
“Valiant bidding,” Pylkkanen said as Gouzer bowed out.
“Well done, Brett, well done,” the dealer Tony Shafrazi shouted from the audience.
The work comes from a series of paintings and drawings that Picasso began in 1954, shortly after the Nationalist uprising in Algeria against French rule, based on Eugène Delacroix’s same-named 1834 masterpiece.
Once owned by New York collectors Victor and Sally Ganz, who purchased it from legendary dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler the year after it was made, it has been on the auction block only once before, back in November 1997 at Christie’s New York, where it was purchased for $31.9 million by tonight’s seller.