Picasso painting on sale in Namibia
The painting’s inclusion at the local auction has raised questions from artists, with Martina von Wenzel from the Swakopmund Fine Art Gallery saying its price tag was "wishful thinking".
07 April 2021 | Art and Entertainment
A painting by acclaimed Spanish artist Pablo Picasso was offered for sale at an auction in Namibia for the record starting price of N$418 million. No bid was entered, though. The painting, titled the ‘Femme assise au chapeau de paille’, is currently being kept in a safe in Europe.
The Swakopmund auction house Bay Auctioneers, which also has a branch in Walvis Bay, over the weekend offered the painting as its most expensive item to date. The online auction started on 31 March and ran until yesterday.
“No, it wasn't an April Fool's joke,” auctioneer Quintin Jonck said yesterday after several people asked him about it. According to him, a South African agency which has the rights to sell the painting put it on the market.
The agency, which deals in antiquities, has in the past bought items from his auction house, as he regularly auctions gold coins and more.
“The authenticity of the painting was proven with documentation, which is why I thought ‘why not?’ It was a showcase item,” he said. The owner of the painting is unknown.
According to Jonck, the agency determined the reserve price of US$32 million (N$469 million). He set the starting price at N$418 million. He’s not surprised that no bid was entered, he said.
“There were a few interested people, though. One person intends to travel to Europe and to see the painting in person,” Jonck said.
The painting has been cited as one of the most attractive and alluring of Picasso's many portraits of Marie-Thérèse Walter - one of his mistresses.
It is one of three portraits he painted of her in July 1938. All three remained in his private collection until the early 1960s. It was painted using oil on canvas and measures 65 cm by 54 cm.
The artwork last changed hands in February 2004 at a Sotheby’s auction in London for around US$4.5 million (about N$65 million).
“We sell a lot of valuables once the auction finishes if they were not sold,” Jonck said. In the case of this painting, interested parties can continue to make an offer.
“Who knows, maybe we’ll sell the piece in the next few days,” he said.
The painting’s inclusion at the local auction has, however, raised questions from artists. “Why the painting is not sold at a renowned art auction house such as Sotheby’s is quite strange,” Martina von Wenzel from the Swakopmund Fine Art Gallery said.
She organises annual auctions, and has customers all over the world.
“If this piece was on auction in Europe, it would have reached real art collectors and the right audience. I think there was a lot of wishful thinking about the price,” she said.