Art And Culture

13 Picasso Paintings Purchased by One Firm

13 Picasso Paintings Purchased by One Firm
13 Picasso Paintings Purchased by One Firm

An international art advisory firm went on a Picasso shopping spree, dropping $155 million on at least 13 works in two days.

Gurr Johns, which buys and sells on behalf of clients, won four pieces by the Spanish artist, totaling $102.4 million at Sotheby’s on Wednesday, according to the auction house.

A day earlier, the company won at least nine other Picasso works at Christie’s, reported.

The leading work of the week was a 1937 portrait of Picasso’s young muse Marie-Therese Walter that fetched $68.5 million at Sotheby’s. The least expensive was ‘Citron et Verre,’ a 1922 still life starring a lemon that sold for $542,000 at Christie’s.

“I am having a hard time imagining who would want to buy so many very different quality Picassos in one spurt,” David Nash, an art dealer specializing in Impressionist and modern art, said in an email. “The real question is who was Gurr Johns buying for? And for what purpose?”

With offices from London to Los Angeles, Gurr Johns offers art valuations and appraisals, private sales and financing. It is unclear whether the company was buying for a single client or several—and if it purchased any other Picassos at London auctions this week.

  London Auctions

The 13 Picassos contributed significantly to the Impressionist and modern art auctions in London, which are being closely watched as the year’s first test for the high-end global art market.

They accounted for 62% of Sotheby’s evening sale that reaped $164 million, surpassing the high presale estimate. At Christie’s, they represented 34% of the $157.3-million tally in the impressionist and modern art sale. The top lots at both houses were the Picasso paintings bought by Gurr Johns.

Shares of Sotheby’s surged the most in more than a year Thursday, advancing 13% to $52.29 in New York, after the company posted a fourth-quarter profit that beat Wall Street estimates.

Picasso was dethroned as the most expensive artist at auction (with a $179.4 million record) in November by Leonardo Da Vinci, whose painting sold for $450 million at Christie’s.

The seller of the jewel-toned Marie-Therese portrait at Sotheby’s was a member of the Picasso family, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

Estimated at about $51 million, ‘Femme au Beret et a la Robe Quadrille’ (Marie-Therese Walter) drew bids from several Sotheby’s staffers. The underbidder was an Asian client of Patti Wong, Sotheby’s chairman of Asia, the company confirmed.

“It’s a good kickoff for what’s undoubtedly will be a very good season,” said Helena Newman, chairman of Sotheby’s in Europe, noting continued demand for top quality art. “It’s a global market.”

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