The news that Christie’s has enticed the owner of Picasso’s Femme d’Alger, Version O to sell with an estimate of $140m may seem outlandish at first but it follows a pattern of art market success for collector Victor Ganz. Ganz’s first purchase was La Reve which ended up having a storied history that included Steve Wynn’s damaging the painting, receiving insurance for the damage and then selling the work for more than it was valued at pre-damage. La Reve Carol Vogel told us in 1997 was purchased for $7,000. But Ganz was never to see the returns himself.
The story behind Femmes d’Alger is illustrative. For some reason, Picasso’s dealer insisted on selling all 15 works in the series to one buyer. He claimed that Picasso wanted the works kept together. That turned out to be nonsense as Ganz later learned. But faced with a stark choice, Ganz bought the whole series and quickly turned around and sold the 10 works he neither wanted nor had the money to keep. He sold those works at a slight loss of about $800 per painting. Here’s Vogel from the time:
After he bought the entire series of 15 works for $212,953, Mr. Ganz realized he might have gone a bit over his head. He sold all but five to dealers and museums for about $138,000. (Four of the ”Alger” paintings that he kept are up for sale on Monday night.)