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Key artists' pieces to go on block

| Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, 9:54 p.m.
Workers transport Pablo Picasso's 'Femme au costume turc dans un fauteuil,' a portrait of his lover Jacqueline Roque, painted in 1955, at Christie's auction house in Londonon Monday. (REUTERS Photo)

LONDON — A Pablo Picasso portrait of his lover and eventual wife Jacqueline Roque and a canvas by Belgian surrealist painter Rene Magritte are among the star attractions of February auctions that Christie's said could net almost $380 million.

Christie's estimated that those works and others to be sold in four auctions on Feb. 4-5 and a fifth on Feb. 7 in London could raise between $260 million and $376 million.

The Picasso, titled “Femme au costume turc dans un fauteuil” (Woman in a Turkish costume seated in a chair), 1955, is valued at $24 million to $33 million and is on sale for the first time in 55 years, Christie's said.

The painting is one of a small group of portraits by Picasso showing Roque in the costume of an “odalisque,” a woman of the harem. It is “a colorful, sexually charged celebration of Jacqueline, whom Picasso would marry six years later and who would become one of the most important muses of the artist's life,” a release said.

Magritte's “Les chasseurs au bord de la nuit” (The hunters at the edge of night), 1928, was part of an exhibition of the painter's works at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and has an estimated value of $9.8 million to $14.7 million, Christie's said.

The Picasso is the centerpiece of an Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Auction on Feb. 4 while the Magritte is in The Art of The Surreal Auction on the same day.

“This stellar sale presents international collectors and institutions with rare opportunities to acquire exceptional works with illustrious provenance by key impressionist and modern masters,” said Jay Vincze, Christie's International Director and head of its Impressionist and Modern Art Department.

“The global market for this category continues to expand and deepen year on year, underpinned by passion for the beauty of the period and an increasingly far-reaching appreciation and understanding of the importance of late 19th century and early 20th century art movements.”

The surrealist auction is comprised of 54 lots. In addition to the Magritte it features Joan Miro's “Femmes et oiseaux” (Women and Birds), 1968, estimated to be worth $6.5 million to $11.4 million, and Carlo Carra's “Solitudine” (Solitude), with an estimated value of $5 million.

“Twenty-five years on from holding the inaugural standalone Dada and Surrealism sale and 14 years since Christie's established its annual auction in the field, the global demand for this pioneering movement continues to go from strength to strength,” Olivier Camu, Christie's deputy chairman for Impressionist and Modern Art, said in the release.

Meanwhile, a portrait by Francis Bacon of his lover and muse will go under the hammer with an estimated price of $49 million.

“Portrait of George Dyer Talking” depicts a young Londoner with whom Bacon had a turbulent relationship. It was exhibited at Bacon's first major retrospective show in Paris in 1971. Dyer killed himself just before it opened.

Francis Outred, head of contemporary art at Christie's Europe, said that the painting offered “a powerful portrait of arguably one of Bacon's greatest loves.”

It will be offered by Christie's in London on Feb. 13.

The value of Bacon's work has soared since his death in 1992. In November, a Bacon triptych depicting artist Lucian Freud fetched $142 million, becoming the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction.

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