Model for Chicago sculpture could fetch $35M at auction
CHICAGO — A model for the cubist sculpture that Pablo Picasso gave to the city of Chicago could fetch as much as $35 million when it is sold at auction next month — a record for a sculpture by the artist, Christie's said on Wednesday.
Picasso never visited Chicago, but he admired the city and donated a 50-foot-tall steel work, which was completed in 1967 and sits in the city's Daley Plaza.
Picasso made two scale models for the sculpture. He sent one to Chicago for the builders of the full-size work to work from, which is on display in the city's Art Institute, and kept one.
The model kept by Picasso, which is being sold, belonged to his granddaughter, Marina Picasso, before going into the collection of art dealer Jan Krugier.
Sharon Kim, Christie's international director in Impressionist and Modern Art, said the pre-sale estimate was based on prices realized for comparable works by Picasso.
The record price paid for a Picasso sculpture was $29.1 million for “Tete de Femme” (Dora Maar) in 2007, according to Christie's.
The model offered for sale, a 41 1⁄2-inch sheet-metal work, was put on display until Thursday in Christie's in Chicago. The auction is set for Nov. 4-5 in New York.
Christie's decided to display it in Chicago to bring the three works together.
The statue has become a beloved icon in Chicago, its muscular metal weirdness an unofficial symbol of America's third-largest city.
When the Picasso was installed in 1967, response was chilly. According to Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko, a few people applauded but most had been hoping for something pretty and were silent.
Royko thought the statue captured the predatory spirit of Chicago, with its “cold, mean” eyes like the eyes of the city's gangsters, slum lords and crooked cops.
Kim said Picasso revered Chicago in part because the Art Institute of Chicago was the first American institution to display his work. When the city tried to offer him $100,000 for the sculpture, he refused it.
The statue is a magnet for tourists and small children who like to slide down the front. But people still argue over what it is — a woman, a horse or a giant insect?
“I think it's sort of like a monkey,” said Lisa Reilly, 42, of Grayslake, a suburb of Chicago. “It's cool.”