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Thursday, 10 May, 2001, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
Picasso portrait fails to sell
Pablo Picasso
Picasso: Portrait was "too specialized a taste"
A Picasso portrait of his wife, Olga, has failed to sell on the first ever occasion it has been put up for auction.

Christie's auction house in New York expected the 1923 painting to fetch at least $30m (£21m) - but bidding dried up at $24m (£17m).

Major works by Degas and Cézanne also failed to sell in a spring sale of impressionist and modern art that did not meet many of the auction house's expectations.

Monet's Nympheas
Monet's Nympheas was the highest-selling lot
It was estimated that the auction would take up to $150m (£105.5m) - but sales totalled just $83.4m (£58.7m).

Christie's America honorary chairman Christopher Burge said it was still a "very strong result".

Mr Burge said it was a successful sale "in almost every respect", and that 87% of the 45 lots were sold.

The Picasso portrait was "too specialised a taste" and "just too expensive on the day", he said.

Had it been sold, Mr Burge said it probably would have been their best result ever.

'Masterful'

Pablo Picasso married Olga, a ballet dancer, in 1918 and used her as a model in many works before the couple divorced in 1935.

The oil-on-canvas portrait was painted in Paris and was described by Christie's as "masterful and tender" and the culmination of the neo-classical period that Olga had inspired.

Claude Monet's water lily work Nympheas was the biggest seller on the night, changing hands for $9.9m (£7m).

Another Picasso, Figure, was sold for $7.2m (£5m). Both had pre-sale estimates of $10m (£7m).

Picasso's Buste de femme and Matisse's Femme Assise au Livre Ouvert sold for almost $4m (£2.8m) each.

Highlights

But Monet's Cathedrale de Rouen: Etude Pour le Portail fetched just half of its lower pre-sale estimate, selling for $996,000 (£700,000).

Edgar Degas's Danseuses Russes and Paul Cézanne's Madame Cézanne Accoudée were among the lots that did not find a buyer.

One of the few successes of the sale was Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot's portrait L'italienne, estimated at up to $1.5m (£1m) but which fetched $2,866,000 (£2m) including premium.

The auction also included works by Henri Matisse, Henry Moore and Salvador Dali.

On Monday, Phillips auction house's impressionist and modern art sale reaped $124m (£87) despite an expected $170m-$236m (£120m-£166m) total.

See also:

07 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Picasso's muse fetches £3m
09 Nov 00 | Americas
Auction record for Picasso
20 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Picasso's erotic works on display
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