The painting was purchased by Sothesby’s senior specialist in London, Phillip Hook. According to Bloomberg, Hook purchased the paining for a client over a phone call. The painting was estimated at a value of $35 to $50 million, and the $41.5 million price tag paid by Hook falls squarely into that range.
Bloomberg also noted that the seller was offered a guaranteed minimum bid, meaning that the painting would have been sold no matter what.
The $41.5 million painting, “Nature Morte aux Tulipes,” was painted by Picasso as a portrait of his mistress Marie-Therese Walker in 1932. It combines the elements of a still-life and a traditional portrait, showing Walker’s head atop a white pedestal alongside tulips and “some sexually suggestive fruit,” according to Bloomberg.
“Nature Morte aux Tulipes” sold for $28.6 million at a 2000 auction at Christie’s in New York City. The 45 percent jump in price can be explained due to a recent resurgence in interest for Picasso’s paintings of Walter. In 2010, his “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust,” also a portrait of Walter, was sold for the price of $106.5 million at Christie’s in New York.
While “Nature Morte aux Tulipes” sold for more than its minimum expected price, the rest of the auction at Sothesby’s didn’t fare as well. According to Bloomberg, the night was the least profitable sale of similar types of art since 2009.
Reportedly, as much as a third of the art went unsold at the auction, and while Sothesby’s expected to move $169 million worth of art Thursday night, it only sold $163 million. The Picasso piece was by far the most profitable item at the auction.
“It’s a smart market today,” New York dealer Christoph van de Weghe told Bloomberg. “If things are priced right, they sell. If they are priced even a tad higher, they don’t.”