Collector mania over Pablo Picasso's artwork. Discover why his works are now worth millions of dollars.
Updated Jul 17, 2023
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Pablo Picasso was one of the pre-eminent figures of the 20th century. Throughout his lifetime, he crafted artworks ranging from paintings to sculptures to etchings, collage pieces, and ceramics.
His prowess solidified the visual language of modernism, and his partnership with Georges Braque gave way to synthetic cubism, analytic cubism, and explorations of neoclassicism and surrealism.
His reaction to the Spanish civil war in his home country was captured in Guernica, an enduring symbol of his anger and patriotism and a piece of art history that’s appreciated by scholars and collectors to this day.
An amazingly versatile and prolific painter, sculptor, and printmaker, what Picasso left behind is admired to this day. Collectively, his art has been sold for more than $728 million at auction—a record yet to be broken by another artist.
Picasso’s The Women of Algiers (Version O) auctioned for an astonishing $179.4 million at Christie’s in 2015. Less than twenty years prior, the same painting sold for $31.9 million—an eye-watering 462% ROI on a painting that set multiple records.
While it might sound incredible, that’s just one of over 20,000 works by the artist.
Notable paintings like Young Girl with Basket of Flowers sold for $115 million in 2018, and Femme assise près d'une fenêtre (Marie-Therese) sold for $103.4 million in 2021. Before that, Marie-Therese had changed hands for only $30,000 in 1950—and its price in the 21st century may shock many.
At age nine, Picasso’s artistic vigor was more advanced than most adults. Picasso went on to cement himself as the world's most influential painter of the twentieth century.
Picasso’s work inspired the futurism, suprematism, constructivism, and dada styles. Today, his masterpieces are in short supply and fetch prices that rival the world’s most famous artworks.
Picasso’s famous paintings are practically synonymous with modern art due purely to his widespread name recognition. Abstract art was defined by Picasso, and his namesake has gone on to inspire artistic mediums like music, literature, and architecture.
After his death in 1973, Picasso’s work grew scarce, resulting in the value of his works becoming exponentially higher and coveted by collectors worldwide.
Picasso is one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century, and his work fetches high prices at auctions to this day. Let's take a closer look at what makes each of these works such valuable investments.
A photograph of the iconic Spanish artist Pablo Picasso in Mougins, France (1971).
Picasso’s ‘Buste de femme (Femme à la résille)’ painted in 1938 is worth an estimated $130 million.
Buste de femme (Femme à la résille) is an exceptional oil painting created in 1938. It captures the emotionally charged relationship between Picasso and his muse Dora Maer in a stunning expression of color and form. Its bold lines and vibrant reds reflect the extraordinary Fauve style of Picasso's later years while foreshadowing the unease of the impending second World War.
Having been cherished by Picasso's descendants, this artwork has made its way to L&M Arts in New York, where it's valued at an estimated $130 million. This marks an incredible jump from its 2015 sale price of $67.4 million—flattering one of the greatest names in modern art.
With its vivid articulation of Picasso's relationship with Dora Maer, Buste de femme is an unforgettable window into art history.
Picasso’s ‘La Gommeuse’ oil on canvas painting worth $67.5 million.
Among Pablo Picasso's famous paintings is La Gommeuse. Created between 1901 and 1902 during Picasso’s Blue Period, this painting came to be worth $1.4 million in 1986. Since then, it saw a 5,600% value increase, landing it a $49.9 million price tag.
The painting's value lies in its vibrant combination of provocative composition and poignant symbolism. It illustrates the carnal pleasures of youth juxtaposed with the inevitable sadness of mortality. On its surface, the painting depicts a cabaret performer in front of a stage, but deeper analysis suggests the background is actually Picasso's studio.
The painting’s journey has been long and fascinating, having passed through the hands of esteemed French art dealer Ambroise Vollard, New York dealer Lucien Demotte, and American film director Josef von Sternberg. In November 2015, La Gommeuse sold for $67.45 million (including the buyer’s premium), making it both a historical artwork and a a valuable asset.
Picasso's ‘Femme au Béret’ (1937) sold for nearly $70 million at Sotheby's in 2018.
Source: nytimes.com / Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS)
Pablo Picasso’s 1937 Femme au Béret et à la Robe Quadrillée (Marie-Thérèse Walter) is a rare work with personal significance to the artist, thus putting it at the center of an intense bidding war. Standing 22 inches tall, this canvas painting portrays Marie-Thérèse Walter, another one of Picasso's beloved muses, with bright colors and finely blends the styles of Picasso's periods of love and tragedy.
After debuting on the market in February 2018, the painting was auctioned at Sotheby's in London for a record $69.4 million. In the past decade, the painting’s value was fairly stable, hovering between $43.7 million and its current value of $44.9 million.
Its bright colors and significance to Picasso's life make this painting an incredibly appealing to investors and collectors because it’s recognizable and encapsulates the consistent quality expected from a renowned artist.
Picasso's ‘Dora Maar au Chat’ (1941) sold for over $95 million in 2006.
Dora Maar au Chat (French for ‘Dora Maar with Cat’) is a stunning and innovative painting made by Picasso in 1941. This oil-on-canvas masterpiece is a must-have for wealthy art aficionados and investors seeking big returns—selling for $95.2 million at auction in 2006.
Picasso's painting of Dora Maar sitting with a cat resting on her shoulder is renowned for its chromatic detail and cubistic influence, capturing the fragility of both her relationship with the artist and the tumultuous atmosphere of WWII-era France. Picasso called her “the weeping woman” because of her frequent crying jags.
A popular and sought-after work, Dora Maar au Chat is a testament to Pablo Picasso's confidence and groundbreaking use of abstract shapes to depict real people. ‘Weeping Woman’ is a powerful symbol of Picasso's mastery and has earned the affection of high-end art enthusiasts and Pablo Picasso purists.
Bidding on ‘Dora Maar au Chat’ closing at $95.2M at Sotheby's auction house.
Femme assise près d'une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse) is a stunning work of art valued at over $100 million, making it the fifth Picasso to reach the nine figure milestone. This post-impressionist painting depicts Pablo Picasso’s lover as a winged goddess with a marble-like head and beautiful curves.
There's no escaping it—the captivating artwork conveys more than just the odyssey of human civilization, but also examines the heights of human emotion and romantic relationships. The painting’s rarity, aesthetic balance, and personal significance to Pabalo Picasso are what make it worth nine-figures.
Picasso's ‘Garçon à la Pipe’ or ‘Boy with a Pipe’ (1905) was sold for an inflation-adjusted $163.4 million.
Garçon à La Pipe is an iconic work from the late blue period that blends innocence and experience, depicting teenage Parisian model Petit Louis in blue overalls with a garland of flowers in his hair.
The Garçon à La Pipe realized a value of $104 million at a Sotheby’s auction in 2004. Originally purchased in 1950 for only $30,000 (about $370,000 today), its price has skyrocketed by over 280x. This Pablo Picasso painting is a perfect example of the kind of returns one can get on a fine art investment.
This painting has become a symbol of wealth and its several allusions in media have further increased its value and artistic allure. It’s one of Picasso's four most expensive paintings, including La Femme aux Bras Croisés (Woman with Crossed Arms), which was auctioned for over $55 million at Christie’s in 2000, and Les Noces de Pierrette, which sold for $48.9 million in 1989.
Picasso's ‘Nude, Green Leaves and Bust’ (1932) depicting Marie-Therese Walter is worth approximately $145 million today.
Pablo Picasso's 1932 painting Nude, Green Leaves and Bust was created during his phase of intense artistic innovation, exploration of the abstract, and use of flat color centered around the human form.
This particular masterpiece is a re-imagining of Picasso's mistress Marie-Therese Walter and was auctioned for a record-breaking $106.5 million in May 2010 at Christie's.
This beat the previous record holder for most expensive artwork—Alberto Giacometti's L'Homme Qui Marche I, bronze—as well as Picasso’s Garcon a la Pipe. It was one of the most expensive postwar paintings ever sold and has more than quintupled in value since 1956 when it was worth a mere $32,000 (or around $358,000 after inflation).
‘Les Femmes d'Alger (Version O)’ by Pablo Picasso (1955).
Pablo Picasso's iconic Les Femmes d'Alger (Version 'O') is a unique cubist work created in 1955 at Picasso's artistic pinnacle and has long been viewed as one of his greatest masterpieces. But, it has only recently shattered global auction records when it sold for a staggering $179,365,000 in 2015—surpassing its previous $31.9 million value at a 1997 Christie’s auction by over 5x.
In tribute to his late friend and artistic rival Matisse, Picasso created a series of paintings that paid homage to him as well as his predecessors Cezanne and El Greco—Les Femmes d'Alger (Version 'O') being the most famous of them.
It achieved incredible fame over the years with exhibits at the Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery, the Grand Palais, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as Christie's.
With its mesmerizing composition and vibrant colors, Les Femmes d’Alger (Version 'O') demonstrates Picasso's artistic genius and oeuvre—right up there with his 1907 Les demoiselles d’Avignon and 1937 Guernica.
Collecting or investing in art can be a rewarding experience and has potentially higher returns than traditional asset classes, especially when it comes to works by well-known artists.
On average, contemporary art prices have increased by 14% annually since 1995, with the value of certain pieces from Pablo Picasso and other famous modern artists rising 12% every year on average.
Art is an ideal inflation hedge since it’s scarce and uncorrelated with markets for things like real estate and stocks. However, risks like illiquidity, forgeries, and price decreases due to the constantly changing tastes of the art world can tear down your returns on an art investment.
Aspiring art collectors must research art history and set clear goals before investing. Returns on fine art may not be realized quickly as with other asset classes, so it takes a flexible time horizon, high tolerance for risk, and impeccable artistic taste to enjoy the full potential of this fine asset class.
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