A painting by the iconic abstract artist sold for a record $179,365,000 at an auction Monday in New York, a Christie's spokesperson said. The 1955 canvas, "Les femmes d'Alger (Version "O")," sets a new bar for the contemporary art market. Previously, the most expensive art work sold at auction was Francis Bacon's "Three Studies of Lucian Freud," which went for $142 million in 2013.
Christie's, the auction house that handled the sale, had expected the Picasso to fetch $140 million. The seller, who bought the painting privately for an undisclosed amount, remains anonymous. The painting was last sold at auction for $31.9 million in 1997.
Picasso's most famous works are in high demand and few remain in private hands. In 2013, billionaire hedge fund manager Steven Cohen bought Picasso's "Le Reve" from hotel magnate Steve Wynn for $155 million in a private sale .
The Picasso is the centerpiece of a blockbuster sale of contemporary art on Monday and Wednesday. All told, up to $2.5 billion worth of art is expected to be sold, according to Philip Hoffman, chief executive of the Fine Art Fund Group, a global art investment house.
"Les Femmes d'Alger," which translates to "The Women of Algiers," is considered a masterpiece of contemporary art. It features nude courtesans, a common theme for Picasso, and is painted in his signature cubist style.
Picasso, who died in 1973, painted it as an homage to his friend and rival, Henry Matisse, the famous French impressionist.