Dubai witnessed a rare and prestigious event on Monday as a Pablo Picasso masterpiece, expected to fetch a minimum of $120 million at auction, was unveiled for public viewing.
The portrait, dating back to 1932 and featuring Marie-Therese Walter, Picasso's beloved muse and mistress, graced the exhibition in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), marking the start of a series of exceptional viewings outside the United States.
After its showcase in Dubai, this extraordinary artwork is set to travel to Hong Kong and London, symbolising the UAE's ambition to establish itself as a cultural hub of global significance. Sotheby's Dubai described the viewing as "the first time a painting of this calibre by the world-renowned artist has ever been exhibited in the UAE," emphasising that it is the first time the portrait has left US soil in half a century.
UAE Culture Minister Sheikh Salem bin Khalid al-Qassimi remarked, "Over the years, the UAE has earned the status of being a global art destination, which receives a further boost as this rare Picasso is unveiled here."
Titled "Femme à la montre," this remarkable painting is scheduled for auction in November as part of a two-day event featuring the prestigious collection of the late New Yorker, Emily Fisher Landau.
The portrait's subject, Marie-Therese Walter, crossed paths with Picasso in Paris in 1927, while the artist was still married to Russian-Ukrainian ballet dancer Olga Khokhlova. Walter, who had been just 17 at the time, went on to become not only a significant figure in Picasso's life but also a prominent subject in his art. In 2021, another of Picasso's works featuring Walter, titled "Femme assise près d'une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse)," was sold at auction by Christie's for a staggering $103.4 million.
Pablo Picasso, who passed away fifty years ago in 1973 at the age of 91, remains an enduring and influential figure in the art world. However, in light of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault, his legacy has been marred by accusations of exerting a coercive influence over the women who played pivotal roles in his life and artistry. Despite these controversies, Picasso's work continues to captivate and inspire art enthusiasts worldwide.