By Tara Kyle
MANHATTAN — A nude painting of Pablo Picasso's mistress became the most expensive piece of art ever sold at auction Tuesday night when an anonymous buyer bid a staggering $106.5 million at Christie's.
The big-bucks battle to own "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust" was fought out by eight art lovers, though six dropped out when the bids topped $88 million, the New York Post reported.
The remaining two — one bidding by phone and the other in person at the Rockefeller Center auction house — pushed the price to $95 million. With fees and commissions, the price tag was $106,482,500.
That bests the prior record, held by an Alberto Giacometti bronze bust sold for $104.3 million at Sotheby’s in London in February.
The portrait of Picasso's lover, Marie-Therese Walter, was part of the collection of late L.A. philanthropist Frances Lasker Brody, who bought it for just $20,000 in 1951.
Christie's experts had expected it to sell for between $70 and $90 million, the Post reported.
This week marks the beginning of a two-week auction season that art watchers believe will serve as a barometer for the health of the market after the recession.
“The sale of this picture confirms the basic strength of the art market when you’re dealing with objects of great quality and freshness to the market,” Stephen Lash, chairman emeritus of Christie’s America, told the Post.
Also at auction last night, Henri Matisse’s “Nu au cousin bleu” went for a top bid of $13.4 million. An Edvard Munch painting, “Fertility,” did not sell due to a low round of offers, the Daily News reported.
Three hundred Picasso works are currently on exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.