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Model for Picasso Sculpture, Which Could Fetch $35 Million, Visits Chicago

 A maquette, or study, created by Picasso in advance of his Daley Plaza sculpture, is on display at Christie's Chicago through Thursday afternoon.
Picasso 'Tete' Maquette
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GOLD COAST — A small-scale, sheet-iron study that Spanish artist Pablo Picasso created before making his iconic sculpture that now sits in Daley Plaza — and which could net $25 million to $35 million at an upcoming Christie's auction — stopped here for a quick visit Wednesday.

Another 42-inch tall "maquette," or trial-run, of the final, 160-ton sculpture sits in the Art Institute's modern wing, and was recently the centerpiece of a three-month retrospective exhibition showcasing more than 250 of Picasso's sketches, sculptures and paintings.

It's the first time both models have been in the same city as Picasso's final sculpture, according to Christie's Chicago's Vice President Steven Zick.

The art house made a special trip to the Midwest "because of the great link with the Daley Center Picasso," Zick said. "This was a very rare opportunity to have all three of them together, in the same city."

Zick said Christie's hopes the Museum of Contemporary Art will consider purchasing the pricey piece.

The model, titled "Tête" (the French word for "head"), is a miniature sculpture made of cut sheet iron, one of many that the Spanish artist created before finishing the untitled art piece.

The estimated value of the model was influenced by the significance of the final sculpture it informed, according to Sharon Kim, Christie's New York's international director of impressionist and modern art.

"Because of the great public awareness of that piece, there's a keen interest in the maquette that helped produce it," Kim said.

"The estimate of the work, which is $25 million to $35 million, is based on previous sculptures in welded steel done by Picasso. So sort of comparable works in this range of medium is how we base our estimates. ... It being the only one available to be offered publicly is unique, as well."

"Tête" can be viewed by the public at Christie's Chicago on the John Hancock Building's 38th floor until 4 p.m. Thursday, when it returns to New York to be auctioned with the rest of dealer Jan Krugier's collection.

Picasso worked on the public art piece for two years, creating dozens of sketches and models before unveiling the so-called "Richard J. Daley Center Sculpture" to a lukewarm reception in August of 1967.

Nine years ago, the artist's grandson, Olivier Widmaier Picasso, claimed he'd identified the subject of the abstract Daley Plaza sculpture: artist Lydia Corbett, nicknamed "The Girl with the Ponytail," whose signature hairstyle may have informed the arching metalwork in the sculpture's background.

The maquette will be auctioned by Christie's New York in a special Krugier collection sale Nov. 4.