Fri, May 07, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Picasso sets record price at auction

ART MARKET The 1905 painting beat the previous record auction price by more than US$20 million

AP , NEW YORK

The Pablo Picasso painting titled Boy with the Pipe, which was sold at Sotheby's auction house in New York, Wednesday, for US$104,168,000. Painted in 1905, the work of art is now the most expensive painting sold at auction.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Pablo Picasso's 1905 painting Boy with a Pipe sold for US$104 million on Wednesday at Sotheby's, shattering the record for an auctioned painting.

The total includes the auction price of US$93 million plus the auction house's commission of about US$11 million.

"This is the finest work in private hands that was going to be available for sale," Sotheby's senior vice president David Norman said.

The previous record was set by Vincent van Gogh's 1890 Portrait of Doctor Gachet, which was sold to a Japanese billionaire for US$82.5 million in 1990 at Christie's. That price included the auction house's premium.

Sotheby's did not say who bought Boy with a Pipe.

A 24-year-old Picasso painted Boy with a Pipe soon after settling in Montmartre, France. It depicts a young Parisian boy holding a pipe in his left hand and wearing a garland of flowers. John Hay and Betsey Whitney bought the painting in 1950 for US$30,000.

Sotheby's called the work, which had a presale estimate of US$70 million, "one of the most beautiful of the artist's Rose Period paintings and one of the most important early works by Pablo Picasso ever to appear on the market."

The previous highest-selling Picasso piece was Woman with Crossed Arms, a Blue Period painting done in 1901 and 1902, which sold for more than US$55 million in November 2000 at Christie's. It was the fifth-highest auction price paid for a work of art.

Boy with a Pipe was part of a collection of major works by Picasso, Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas and others that headlined an auction of 34 paintings from a charitable foundation created by Betsey Whitney, a philanthropist, Sotheby's said.

Also on the auction block was Courses au Bois de Boulogne by Manet. Painted in 1872, it depicts a sunny day at the horse races and features a top-hatted figure in the lower-right corner that is thought to be Manet's fellow racing enthusiast Degas. It sold for US$26.3 million.

The collection, which had a presale estimate of more than US$140 million, netted US$190 million.

The proceeds will go to the Greentree Foundation -- created in 1982 by Betsey Whitney following the death of her husband.

John Hay Whitney was editor in chief and publisher of The New York Herald Tribune from 1961 to 1966 as well as chairman of the International Herald Tribune from 1966 until his death. He also founded the venture capital firm of J.H. Whitney and Co.

Betsey Whitney died in 1998.

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