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Picasso’s works sell for nearly $110 million in Las Vegas auction

By Jeevan Ravindran and Jacqui Palumbo, CNN

A selection of 11 Pablo Picasso works have been auctioned for a collective total of more than $110 million, after being on display for years in a Las Vegas restaurant.

Part of the MGM Resorts Collection, the pieces were a hallmark of the Bellagio Hotel’s Michelin-starred French and Spanish eatery “Picasso,” which is inspired by the artist’s life and work.

Coinciding with the artist’s 140th birthday, MGM said the auction was the “largest and most significant” fine art sale ever to take place in Las Vegas. Organized by Sotheby’s, it was the auction house’s first evening marquee sale to take place outside New York.

The star attraction of Saturday’s auction was “Femme au béret rouge-orange,” or “Woman in a reddish-orange hat,” a 1938 portrait of Picasso’s lover and muse Marie-Thérèse Walter.

The Spanish artist’s affair with Walter lasted from the late 1920s to the 1930s, and she gave birth to their daughter Maya in 1935. Picasso’s portraits of Walter are characterized by vivid colors and a sense of intimacy.

Initially estimated to sell for between $20 and $30 million by Sotheby’s, it was eventually auctioned off for more than $40 million.

Picasso, who lived from 1881 until 1973 and spent much of his adult life in France, is often dubbed the founding father of the Cubist style of painting — and “Femme au béret rouge-orange” bears some similarities to his famous later portraits of his lover Dora Maar.

The auction also featured two Cubist-inspired still life paintings from the early 1940s during World War II — with “Nature morte au panier de fruits et aux fleurs” selling for $16.6 million, while “Nature morte aux fleurs et au compotier” sold for $8.3 million.

Meanwhile, “Homme et enfant,” or “Man and child,” which Sotheby’s said reflected his later spontaneous style and his role as a father, sold for just over $24 million.

However, it was the less high-profile works that hugely exceeded their estimates, with the 1962 painted terracotta “Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe” — inspired by Edouard Manet’s 1863 painting of the same name — selling for over four times its highest valuation.

The auction also included a sculpted white pitcher with three faces carved onto its surface. The work, produced by Picasso in 1954, was valued at between $60,000 and $80,000 but sold for $315,000.

Some works also revealed intimate details about Picasso’s life and work — with a ceramic tile showing the window of his workshop “La Californie,” which overlooked the sea in the southern French city of Cannes.

In an August press release, MGM said the auction would help in “deepening diversity and inclusion” within its art collection. Some of the proceeds will be invested back into the art market, according to Sotheby’s.

An MGM spokesperson said via Sotheby’s that the group’s collection still contains 12 other Picasso artworks that will replace the auctioned items at the Bellagio’s “Picasso” restaurant.

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Top: “Buste d’homme” hanging behind the bar at Picasso, which opened in 1998.

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