Picasso masterpiece begins pre-auction tour in Dubai

A Pablo Picasso masterpiece expected to fetch at least $120 million at auction went on show Monday in Dubai, kicking off a set of rare viewings outside the United States.

“Femme a la montre”, the 1932 portrait of Marie-Therese Walter, Picasso’s mistress and “golden muse”, is being exhibited for two days before heading to Hong Kong and London, a boon for the United Arab Emirates’ bid to establish itself as a cultural powerhouse.

The viewing is “the first time a painting of this calibre by the world-renowned artist has ever been exhibited in the UAE”, Sotheby’s Dubai said in a statement, noting it is the first time the portrait had been shown outside the United States in half a century.

“Over the years the UAE has earned the status of being a global art destination, which receives a further boost as this rare Picasso is unveiled here,” said UAE Culture Minister Sheikh Salem bin Khalid al-Qassimi.

“Femme a la montre” will be sold in November as part of a two-day auction of late New Yorker Emily Fisher Landau’s prestigious collection.

Walter met Picasso in Paris in 1927, when the Spaniard was still married to Russian-Ukrainian ballet dancer Olga Khokhlova, and when Walter was 17.

Walter, whose daughter with Picasso died last year, also featured in “Femme assise pres d’une fenetre (Marie-Therese)”, which was sold in 2021 for $103.4 million by Christie’s auction house.

“The market for Picasso is one of the most truly global of any artist. He is a worldwide phenomenon,” said Julian Dawes, head of impressionist and modern art at Sotheby’s.

Between 2021 and 2022 “we saw over 100 percent increase in bidders and buyers across all of our departments from the Middle East”, Dawes added.

Fifty years after his death in 1973 aged 91, Picasso remains one of the most influential artists of the modern world, and is often hailed as a dynamic and creative genius.

But in the wake of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault, his reputation has been tarnished by accusations that he exerted a violent hold over the women who shared his life and inspired his art. (AFP)

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