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Picasso on the block - and it could be yours for $217 million

Visual Art

Pablo Picasso’s 1932 painting Femme a la montre has sold for more than $US139 million ($A217 million) at a New York auction, making it the most valuable work of art sold globally at an auction this year.

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The work is a standout of New York City’s autumn art auction season, seen by many as a bellwether for the art market.

It went under the hammer at Sotheby’s on Wednesday as part of an estimated $US400 million sale of the collection of late philanthropist Emily Fisher Landau.

An anonymous buyer beat out two other bidders for the painting.

The nine-digit price made it the second most-expensive Picasso painting to sell at auction, behind Les femmes d’Alger (Version O), which fetched $US179.3 million, including a buyer’s premium, at Christie’s in 2015.

Femme a la montre, which translates from French to Woman with a Watch, is a portrait of the artist’s lover Marie-Therese Walter seated against a blue background.

The wristwatch is a motif also seen in artwork Picasso made of his wife, ballerina Olga Khokhlova.

Walter was 17 years old when she met the 45-year-old Picasso in Paris, and the two later entered into a secret relationship while he was married to Khokhlova.

Walter was his subject for a number of artworks, including the 1932 painting Femme nue couchee, which sold for $US67.5 million at auction in 2022.

Picasso painted Femme a la montre at a pivotal year in his career.

At 50, he had already achieved widespread fame by 1932 but set out to silence critics who questioned “whether he was an artist of the past rather than the future”, according to the Tate Modern museum.

Fisher Landau bought the painting from New York’s Pace Gallery in 1968 and kept it above the mantle in her Manhattan apartment, according to Sotheby’s.

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