Fine art probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Las Vegas but Sin City is gearing up to host a first-of-its-kind auction of masterworks by Picasso at the iconic Bellagio Resort and Casino.
Just in time for the iconic Spanish artist’s 140th birthday, MGM Resorts and Sotheby’s will host the marquee evening sale – the first in the US to ever take place outside of Sotheby’s New York auction house – on Saturday, August 23. The Las Vegas auction will feature 11 works by the famed painter and sculptor from the MGM Resorts Fine Art Collection as the global entertainment firm moves to re-shape its public fine art portfolio with a renewed focus on diversity and inclusion.
Not one to do things by halves, The Bellagio is set to recreate the auction house’s iconic New York saleroom within its Las Vegas resort to host the auction, producing a truly immersive experience. Expected to attract a global audience of art lovers and collectors alike, Sotheby’s will broadcast the sale around the world via a live stream from its website.
“It’s an honor to collaborate with Sotheby’s to bring this first-of-its-kind art and entertainment experience to Las Vegas and embark on this momentous auction,” said Ari Kastrati, MGM Resorts’ chief hospitality officer. “The Bellagio, one of MGM’s most famous hotels, was the first resort committed to bringing fine art to Las Vegas. With the launch of the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art and its famous Picasso restaurant featuring the master’s iconic paintings and ceramic pieces, the hotel has steadily grown its art portfolio over the past two decades.
Featuring 11 works that span more than 50 years of the artist’s celebrated career, the Las Vegas Picasso auction includes a highly curated selection of paintings, works on paper and ceramics from 1917 to 1969. The auction’s most coveted piece is Femme au béret rouge-orange which has an estimate of $20-30m. One of Picasso’s defining portraits of Marie Thérèse Walter, the artist’s famed muse, the 1938 painting is one the artist’s final works capturing his beloved and marks a key time after Picasso met the photographer Dora Maar who would go on to become his focus.
Also to go under the hammer are two large-scale later works by Picasso: Homme et enfant (estimated to reach between $20-30m) and Buste d’homme (estimated to reach $10-15m). Both were painted just over three years before his death in 1973 and were included in the artist’s highly important 1970 exhibition at the Palais des Papes in Avignon.
Also included in the October sale is the still life Nature morte au panier de fruits et aux fleurs, painted by Picasso during the Nazi occupation of Paris in 1942. The painting, which has an estimate of $10-15m, is a fine example of the artist’s wartime style which is synonymous with bold stylistic choices, muted tones and graphic Cubist-inspired lines.
The auction will also feature several works on paper, including a portrait of the commedia dell’arte character Pierrot; an additional wartime still life, Nature morte aux fleurs et au compotier; and a ceramic pitcher entitled Aiguière – Visage.
“It is a privilege to present this exemplary selection of works by Picasso from the MGM art collection in a special auction to support MGM Resorts in evolving their collection to represent a broader and more diverse group of artists,” said Brooke Lampley, Sotheby’s chairman and worldwide head of sales for global fine art.
“MGM Resorts is a world-class entertainment and hospitality brand known for bringing the finest experiences to their clientele, and we cannot wait to work together to bring the magic of a Sotheby’s Evening Sale to Las Vegas for the first time,” she continued. “As one of the most famous, beloved and accomplished artists of all time, we couldn’t imagine anyone better than Picasso to inaugurate this unique art and culture experience.”
Sotheby’s New York galleries will host a pre-sale exhibition of the full selection of works from September 7-13, with traveling exhibitions of select highlights scheduled for Taipei on September 17 and 18 and Hong Kong October 7-11. The full selection – which is estimated to be around $100m – will be available to view at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art in Las Vegas from October 21-23 ahead of the auction.