In a remarkable art world spectacle, Pablo Picasso’s mesmerizing 1932 masterpiece, “Femme à la montre” or “Woman with a Watch,” has captured the global spotlight by selling for an astounding sum of over $139 million at a prestigious Sotheby’s New York auction. This momentous sale has not only rewritten history but has also set the stage for a trailblazing year in the art market.
This stunning artwork took center stage during New York City’s autumn art auction season, hailed by many as a barometer of art market trends. It was part of a monumental auction of the late philanthropist Emily Fisher Landau’s exquisite collection, anticipated to fetch a staggering $400 million.
This nine-digit price tag positions “Femme à la montre” as the second most valuable Picasso painting to grace an auction, trailing only behind the iconic “Les femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’),” which achieved a breathtaking $179.3 million at Christie’s in 2015.
“Femme à la montre” presents a captivating portrayal of Picasso’s lover, Marie-Thérèse Walter, gracefully seated in an ornate chair against a vibrant blue backdrop. The focal point, the wristwatch, also features prominently in Picasso’s depictions of his wife, the Russian-Ukrainian ballerina Olga Khokhlova.
Their clandestine romance unfolded when the 45-year-old Picasso encountered the 17-year-old Walter in Paris while still married to Khokhlova, making her the muse for numerous of his iconic works, including the 1932 gem “Femme nue couchée,” which fetched an impressive $67.5 million at auction in 2022.
This masterpiece emerged at a pivotal moment in Picasso’s storied career. At the age of 50, he had already achieved widespread acclaim, but 1932 marked a turning point as he fervently pursued even loftier artistic ambitions to quell the critics who questioned whether he was a relic of the past or a herald of the future, as recounted by the Tate Modern museum.
The painting’s journey from obscurity to astronomical fame took an intriguing turn when Fisher Landau acquired it from New York’s renowned Pace Gallery in 1968, where it adorned the mantelpiece of her Manhattan apartment for decades, steeped in artistic history and cultural significance.
In a riveting climax to the auction, an enigmatic, deep-pocketed buyer outbid two other contenders, securing this artistic masterpiece for an undisclosed future. Picasso’s “Femme à la montre” now holds an indomitable place in the annals of art history, setting the stage for what promises to be a groundbreaking year in the art world.