The age of austerity has been a jolly time for the art world, so far at least.
For Picasso, the year brought a record price for any work of art at auction when his 1932 painting “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” sold for $106.5 million at Christie’s International in New York in May. It’s a fine work, though some, including his biographer John Richardson, prefer “Nude in Black Armchair,” which the artist painted the following day (March 9, 1932).
As a reward for one day’s work, $106.5 million may be a record in itself, although admittedly Picasso would have had to reach the age of 128, and kept hold of the picture, to reap it. Still, he may posthumously be experiencing some satisfaction.
Giacometti, on the other hand, might have been miffed by his own prices. His bronze sculpture “Walking Man I” fetched the equivalent of $103.4 million at Sotheby’s in London on Feb. 3 — only just missing the world record of $104.2 million, for a Picasso, in 2004. An austere man who worked and lived in a tiny Paris apartment with an earth floor, Giacometti was intensely competitive with Picasso.