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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 21, 2010

Picasso at auction

Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The 1903 "Portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto" will be auctioned in London to benefit a British arts charity.


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LONDON Christie's auction house said Wednesday that it will sell a celebrated Pablo Picasso portrait that was the subject of a dispute about its Nazi-era ownership.

"Portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto (The Absinthe Drinker)" is expected to fetch between $45 million and $60 million at a London auction June 23.

The 1903 portrait, from Picasso's Blue Period, is being sold by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber's charitable foundation.

Proceeds will go to its work promoting the arts.

The painting of a fellow artist with whom the young Picasso shared a studio was withdrawn from sale in New York in 2006 after the heir of a Berlin banker who owned it in the 1930s claimed his ancestor was forced to sell it under Nazi intimidation.

U.S. courts threw out the lawsuit, and Christie's said the issue has now been resolved "by agreement."

Jussi Pylkkanen, the head of Christie's Europe, Russia and Middle East division, said the painting is "one of the most important works of art to be offered at auction in decades" and could sell for a very high price.

He said recent sales indicate that "there is a huge appetite for 20th-century modernism."

Despite the global financial meltdown, artworks at the highest end of the price scale have been selling for record sums.

Last month, Alberto Giacometti's sculpture "Walking Man I" sold at Sotheby's in London for just over $104.3 million, the highest price ever paid for an artwork at auction.

The record for a Picasso is only slightly less $104.17 million, paid in New York in 2004 for "Boy With a Pipe (The Young Apprentice)."