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Man buys a Picasso for $3mn and sells it for $67mn, here’s how

In 2000, Koch discovered that there was another painting on the reverse -- a mocking depiction of Picasso’s art dealer -- that had been hidden under the lining for a century.

art and culture Updated: Nov 06, 2015 17:33 IST
Picasso,Painting,La Gommeuse
A gallery assistant displays the front (R) and the rear of the painting "La Gommeuse" by Pablo Picasso at a media preview at Sotheby's in London, Britain.(REUTERS)

Famous Spanish painter Picasso’s picture of a cabaret artist, which carries a second painting on the reverse, sold for $67.45 million in New York Thursday, scoring a windfall for American billionaire Bill Koch. It was the top lot of the season so far, proving a savvy investment for the Republican party donor who paid just $3 million for the canvas in 1984 and later discovered he got two for the price of one.

Sotheby’s had valued the canvas, “La Gommeuse,” at $60 million. It was painted in Paris in 1901 when the artist was just 19 years old and grieving the suicide of a close friend.

In 2000, during restoration work, Koch discovered that there was another painting on the reverse -- a mocking depiction of Picasso’s art dealer -- that had been hidden under the lining for a century.

The 1901 painting 'La Gommeuse' by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso is pictured during Sotheby's press preview of the Autumn Evening Auctions in New York. (AFP)

It was a lucrative night for Koch. Sotheby’s also sold his Monet “Nympheas” (water lilies) study in oil for $33.85 million, clearing its minimum pre-sale estimate of $30 to $50 million.

Another highlight was a Vincent van Gogh, which sold for $54 million.

“Paysage sous un ciel mouvemente” (moving sky over a landscape) was painted a year before the artist’s death and shows storm clouds over fields outside Arles, France.

And one of the finest works by Polish-Russian painter Kazimir Malevich still remaining in private hands, called “Mystic Suprematism,” sold for $37.8 million.

A portrait of art dealer Pere Manach is viewed on the reverse side of the canvas of the 1901 painting 'La Gommeuse'. (AFP)

A small van Gogh of a fat baby in a bonnet, “Le Bebe Marcelle Roulin” smashed its pre-sale estimate by selling for $7.64 million following a prolonged and frenetic bidding war.

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David Norman, co-chairman of worldwide impressionist and modern art, joked that it was the most expensive portrait of a baby he had seen in 30 years.

The auction saw Sotheby’s kick back with a strong performance after a rather sluggish sale on Wednesday of $377 million worth of art collected by self-made billionaire Alfred Taubman, a former Sotheby’s chairman.

Taubman did a brief stint in jail in 2002 for price fixing.

Van Gogh’s “Landscape Under a Stormy Sky,” depicting a field in Arles in the south of France, that could bring $50 million to $70 million, is described by David Norman, co-chairman of Impressionist and Modern Art at Sotheby's, in New York. (AP)

The next week sees Christie’s and Sotheby’s go head to head in auction sales six months after the spring season smashed a string of records and netted more than $2.6 billion for the rival auction houses.

The most expensive lots this season are a sumptuous nude by Modigliani valued at $100 million, and a pop art masterpiece from Roy Lichtenstein estimated at $80 million.

Both go under the hammer at Christie’s.

First Published: Nov 06, 2015 17:31 IST