A $35 Million Picasso, Based on his Muse and a Dog, Goes to the Block



A Picasso maquette for the public sculpture in Chicago’s Daley Plaza could go for as much as $35 million at Christie’s on Nov. 4. The piece, a stylized bust of a woman, is “a portrait of [the artist’s muse and second wife] Jacqueline Roque,” according to New York dealer Emmanuel Benador, who spoke to A.i.A. on the phone. “But the elongated nose is based on that of an Afghan hound Picasso owned,” he said. The work comes from the collection of art dealer Jan Krugier (1928-2008), which will be rolled out in sales totaling more than 150 lots and is estimated to bring as much as $170 million.

Picasso saved the work, Tête (Maquette pour la sculpture en plein air du Chicago Civic Center), 1964, a 41-inch-high sheet metal model, while sending a duplicate to Chicago to serve as the basis for the 65-foot freestanding iron sculpture, commissioned by the city and unveiled in 1967.

“Picasso was very concerned about doing such a large project,” Benador told A.i.A., especially since he would not be present for the fabrication of the piece. Explaining his decision to keep a maquette, the dealer said, “He wanted to keep a witness,” a piece that could serve as inspiration for subsequent projects, since Picasso found the combination of woman and dog formally liberating. “It opened up new areas that he hadn’t explored before,” he said.

The maquette Picasso sent to Chicago is now in the collection of that city’s Art Institute. It was on view in the museum’s recent exhibition “Picasso and Chicago,” where it was accompanied by audio of journalist Studs Terkel interviewing Chicagoans about the work. When asked “What do you think?” one baffled viewer could only reply, “Is this the front view?”

The Krugier maquette will be on view from Oct. 2-4 at Christie’s Chicago showroom. It’s one of 30 of the Spaniard’s works from Krugier’s collection that will be on offer.

Krugier, a highly visible figure at New York auctions, was born into a Jewish family in Radom, Poland, in 1928. After fighting in the Polish resistance and spending time in concentration camps, Krugier made his way to Paris, where sculptor Alberto Giacometti persuaded him to consider becoming an art dealer. He opened his own gallery in Geneva in 1962, and his collection encompasses works of Impressionist, modern, postwar and contemporary art, as well as old masters, American, Latin American and African art.