Picasso reaches £34.7m in Christie's auction

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A "blue period" Picasso has fetched £34.7m at auction in London.

The 1903 painting, Portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto, was expected to fetch between £30m and £40m at the sale where total receipts could reach £230m.

That would smash a £147m UK record set by Sotheby's in London in February.

A Monet water-lily painting expected to fetch between £30m and £40m failed to sell at the Christie's event, which also featured works by Magritte and Van Gogh.

The Picasso, described by Christie's earlier this year as "one of the most important works of art to be offered at auction in decades", was owned by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Art Foundation.

Expert Georgina Adam from Art Newspaper said that even though the sale broke a European record, it was still disappointing and she was surprised several works did not sell.

The 1906 Monet work Nympheas, painted in his water garden in Giverny, only reached £29m in the sale.

There were gasps when the Monet did not reach its selling price.

Christie's says the event will be the biggest art auction ever held in London.

It forms the centrepiece of a week of arts sales in the capital, where a self-portrait by Edouard Manet has already been snapped up for £22m.

Despite the economic downturn, there is "great demand" for such works, says Giovanna Bertazonni, head of impressionist and modern art at Christie's.

Prices have soared recently, with Picasso's 1932 picture Nude, Green Leaves and Bust fetching $106m (£72m) in New York last month, making it the most expensive art work sold at auction.

"At the moment we are really seeing this market of these masterpieces - the top, the most rare, beautiful works, the most iconic, the most symbolic work of the oeuvre of an artist - sell extremely well," says Bertazonni.

"There is actually a recognition that works of art are a very tangible investment... as opposed to many others that fail to resist the test of time."

Image caption,
Manet's self-portrait - one of two in existence - sold for £22m

Monet's Nympheas is one of five paintings which formed part of his celebrated display of water-lilies at a 1909 exhibition in Paris, where the artist's studies of the effects of light won critical acclaim.

The current record for a Monet stands at £41m, paid for Le Bassin Aux Nympheas at Christie's in London, in June 2008.

Other works in the Christie's Impressionist and Modern Art Sale include Klimt's Frauenbildnis (Portrait of Ria Munk III), which has an estimate of £14m to £18m, and Van Gogh's Parc de l'hopital Saint-Paul - £8m to £12m.

Matisse's Nu a la chaise longue is estimated to fetch between £5.5m and £8.5m while Magritte's Les Barricades Mysterieuses is expected to sell for between £3m and £4m.

Picasso's Le Baiser - £8m to £12m - and La Liseuse - £6m to £9m - are also in the sale.

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