Picasso painting sold for $179m, becomes most expensive painting sold at auction

Women of Algiers by Pablo Picasso has become the most expensive painting ever sold at auction.

The painting surpassed its estimate of $140m in the auction at Christies in New York, and was sold for $179m (£115m).

After 11 minutes of furious bidding, it was an anonymous telephone bidder who secured ownership of the work, painted by Picasso between 1954 and 1955.

The previous title of the world’s most expensive painting was held by Francis Bacon after the sale in 2013 of his triptych Three Studies of Lucien Freud, which went for $142.4m.

Picasso’s painting was done while the artist was in his 70s, and was inspired partly by the recent death of his friend Matisse, who had spent years painting Odalisques – images inspired by Turkish Courtesans. The Oriental theme is a nod to Matisse. But the painting is also a direct tribute to the French painter Eugene Delecroix, who first painted a canvas titled Women of Algiers in 1834.

The painting had previously been owned by the American collectors Victor and Sally Ganz, and has appeared in numerous Picasso exhibitions.

Art boom

Meanwhile, the Royal Academy in London has announced a £50m expansion that will see larger public galleries and a new lecture theatre.

The works also include plans to bridge the two halves of the academy, which sits on both sides of Piccadilly, by public walkway.

The works are due to be completed by 2018, in time for the Academy’s 250th anniversary.

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