Pablo Picasso’s work Femme a la Montre, 1932.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
A masterpiece by Pablo Picasso is being shown in the UAE for its first exhibition outside of the USA in over fifty years. It is the highest value painting ever to be brought to the Middle East by an auction house. Can’t bear the suspense? Well, here we go then. The masterpiece is a monumental 1932 portrait of Marie-Therese Walter done by Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramist and theatre designer Picasso titled Femme a la Montre or Woman with a Watch. It holds an estimate in excess of $120 million and will be on view at Sotheby’s Dubai in the DIFC on September 25 and 26. The work is part of a ground breaking collection of Patron of the Arts Emily Fisher Landau, and was gracing her living room for half a century; it is being offered at auction at Sotheby’s in New York on November 8 and 9.
“It is a true privilege to have a masterpiece of this significance, by one of the world’s most well-known and well-loved artists, unveiled in the UAE as the first stop on its world tour”, says Katia Nounou Boueiz, Head of Sotheby’s UAE. “One of the greatest works of modern art we have ever brought to auction, it is the perfect artwork to showcase and continue our commitment to bringing the best of art and culture to the region. In 2020, we exhibited a painting by Botticelli, which was estimated in excess of $80 million, and at the time made headlines as the highest value painting ever to be brought to the Middle East by an auction house. Since then, we have exhibited some wonderful works by the likes of Boetti, Kandinsky, Warhol and more. The appearance of this Picasso on our walls in Dubai will now overtake the record set by the Botticelli, and also marks the first time a painting of this calibre by the artist has ever been exhibited anywhere in the UAE.”
“One of Emily Fisher Landau’s first major purchases, Picasso’s Femme a la Montre is a masterpiece by every measure. Painted in 1932 – Picasso’s ‘annus mirabilis’ – it is full of joyful, passionate abandon yet at the same time it is utterly considered and resolved. Its bold primary colours literally sing from the five-foot-tall-canvas. The Emily Fisher Landau Picasso is not just a stand-out work from a stand-out year - it is a definitive work in the story of Western art,” says Julian Dawes, Sotheby’s Head of Impressionist & Modern Art, Americas.
Collector and philanthropist Emily Fisher Landau.
Emily Fisher Landau (1920 – 2023) bought this work in 1968, right at the start of her collecting journey. The major acquisition was a bold move for a new collector; but she knew that it was not the sort of work she should pass up: she bought it on the spot from Pace Gallery - it remained the keystone of her collection for more than five decades, hanging above the mantlepiece in her New York home. The work’s significance to Picasso’s oeuvre cannot be overstated - its date, scale, subject, vibrancy and provenance are regarded exceptional. Depicting Marie-Therese Walter, the artist’s ‘golden muse’ and the subject of many of his most accomplished portraits, it dates from 1932, a year of such importance that an entire museum exhibition was dedicated to it (Tate Modern & Musee Picasso Paris 2018).
In addition, the piece has another important distinguishing feature: the watch that the artist so conspicuously placed on Marie-Therese’s wrist. Among the many paintings Picasso created in his long and varied career, only three, including this, are known to feature a watch. Yet watches were objects of immense significance to him.
Picasso had a deep passion for exceptional timepieces and owned three of the greatest watches in existence, by Rolex, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Patek Philippe. Here, Marie-Therese wears one of his treasured watches. At the same time, the presence of the watch nods to the centuries-old tradition of Vanitas painting, with its references to the transience of both love and life.
Picasso’s first encounter with his muse, and their subsequent love affair, is legendary. They first met outside the Galeries Lafayette in Paris one day in 1927, a brief exchange marking the start of a passionate relationship that was kept a secret for years. This work was painted in August, soon after the close of his first, large-scale retrospective, at a moment when – finally free from the stresses of the exhibition and the secrecy around his relationship – he was able to give full painterly voice to his love for her.
Born in 1920 and raised in Upper Manhattan, Emily Fisher Landau began her collection in 1968. She left an indelible mark on the world of contemporary art and philanthropy during her remarkable 102-year life. Established in 1744, Sotheby’s global marketplace is supported by an industry-leading technology platform and a network of specialists spanning 40 countries and 70 categories which include Contemporary Art, Modern and Impressionist Art, Old Masters, Chinese Works of Art, Jewellery, Watches and Design, as well as collectible cars and real estate. Sotheby’s Dubai was launched in 2017.
The gallery is located in the heart of DIFC, at Gate Village Building 3. The company hosts a programme of year-round events, including selling and non-selling exhibitions, events and talks reflecting the spectrum of Sotheby’s international sales and extensive client services.
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