Picasso artworks on display in a Las Vegas restaurant are expected to fetch in excess of $100 million

It will be two days before Pablo Picasso’s 140th birthday that a group of eleven Pablo Picasso artworks that have been on display at a Las Vegas restaurant for more than two decades will be put up for auction.

The paintings, which were part of MGM Resorts’ extensive art collection, have long been a staple at Picasso, a Michelin-starred French and Spanish restaurant in the Bellagio that is inspired by the life and work of its namesake painter.

According to Sotheby’s auction house, which is handling the sale, the collection — which comprises paintings, works on paper, and one ceramic item — has a combined top estimate of $104.2 million.

In an interview over the phone, Brooke Lampley, chairman of Sotheby’s and worldwide director of sales for global fine art, explained that the collection is “an encyclopaedic collection of Picasso’s work, encompassing pieces from 1917 to 1969 — so basically the span of his whole career.” This book provides a beautifully complete overview of the great diversity and richness of his professional life.

It will be the first time that one of Sotheby’s premier evening auctions will be held outside of the auction house’s New York headquarters, which will mark the first time that Las Vegas has hosted such a sale.

A diverse range of items

A painting of Marie-Thérèse Walter, a young French model with whom the artist had an affair for years in the late 1920s and early 1930s, is included in the exhibition. “Femme au béret rouge-orange” is one of the 11 works on display. Picasso’s comprehensive portraits of Walter, who happened to be the mother of his daughter Maya, are distinguished by their vibrant colours and intimate atmosphere.

In Lampley’s words, “I really like the Marie-Thérèse phase because it is the most exceptionally genuine and passionate time of Picasso’s work.” He used a double Cubist-style face and a beret in this painting, she pointed out, which were evocative of his famous portraits of his other romantic companion, the photographer Dora Maar.

In addition, Lampley stated that “you can see the integrated impacts of the two muses at this time.”

Picasso’s “Buste d’homme,” a painting from his late period that once hung behind the Las Vegas restaurant’s bar, as well as “Nature morte au panier de fruits et aux fleurs,” a still-life painted during the Nazi occupation of Paris, and “Aiguière — Visage,” a white terracotta vessel he made in 1954, are among the works up for sale.

A new location has been established.

According to Sotheby’s, the Picasso auction will be the “biggest and most significant” fine art sale ever held in Las Vegas, and it will be the first time a Picasso has been auctioned in the city. The move is part of MGM’s efforts to rebrand Las Vegas, which is best known for gambling and entertainment, as “a larger art destination,” according to Lampley, who is the company’s president.

It takes place at a time when the ongoing pandemic is having a significant impact on both the art market and the hospitality and travel sectors, among other things. Following a 61 percent drop in Las Vegas visitor counts in July 2020 when compared to the same month the previous year, MGM Resorts fired off 18,000 employees, or a fourth of its staff, in August last year. As a result of an increase in travel, MGM Resorts International reported a rebound in its second-quarter profitability earlier this month.

MGM stated in a news statement that auctioning off the Picasso pieces will promote the company’s goal of “deepening diversity and inclusion” within its art collection by raising funds. According to Sotheby’s, a portion of the revenues will be reinvested back into the art market.

“We are committed to establishing an even more inclusive collection that retains the breadth of our existing portfolio while offering a stronger voice to artists from under-represented areas,” said Ari Kastrati, the resort group’s chief hospitality officer in a statement.

Neither MGM nor the studio would set a timetable for the endeavour. In a statement released through Sotheby’s, a spokesperson stated, “We want to be thoughtful and reflective about how we move forward.” The auction house also confirmed that the group’s collection still contains 12 other Picasso artworks, which will be displayed at the restaurant in place of the auctioned items.

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