Sotheby’s Has Won the Coveted Collection of the Late Art Patron Emily Fisher Landau, Led By a $120 Million Picasso

The star lot is a remarkable 1932 Picasso estimated to sell "in excess of $120 million."

Pabo Picasso. Femme à la montre (Woman With a Watch) (1932). Courtesy Sotheby's

Sotheby’s has emerged victorious in the battle to secure the collection of the late Emily Fisher Landau, the noted art patron who died in March at the age of 102.

The trove will be the premiere single-collector offering of the fall auction season in New York this November. Christie’s and Sotheby’s had been vying for the consignment.

The star lot of the group is Pablo Picasso’s Femme à la montre (Woman With a Watch), a 1932 portrait of the artist’s young lover Marie-Therese Walter, which is estimated to achieve “in excess of $120 million,” according to a statement from Sotheby’s.

The year is considered Picasso’s “annus mirabilis,” a year so important for the artist that an entire exhibition dedicated to it was mounted at the Tate Modern in 2018. Major Picasso works from 1932 are now all worth between $100 million and $200 million, according to a dealer who staged another exhibition comprised solely of them. No such pieces have come to auction since 2010, when a large-scale painting, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, from the collection of Los Angeles patrons Sydney and Frances Brody, fetched a record-setting $106 million.

Multiple sources in the auction houses said the Landau works were valued at $500 million, all told. Sotheby’s said in its official release that it’s “in excess of $400 million for the collection’s overall estimate.”

Other notable works from the collection include a major Mark Rothko from 1958, an Ed Ruscha (Landau had the largest assemblage of his work in private hands and visited his studio often), a Jasper Johns Flag work (one of only four ever to be offered at auction), and an Andy Warhol self-portrait, completed just months before the artist’s death.

With the art market in contraction, all eyes will be on the Landau sale. The calamitous Gerald Fineberg salethis spring inaugurated the correction when it totaled $153 million on an estimate of $163 million to $235 million, falling short of its presale target range even after Christie’s fees were added to the hammer result of $124.7 million.

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