The Met Is Selling Off a Prized Picasso Sculpture Valued at $30 Million

Christie's is handling the auction

Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso is watching.
ullstein bild via Getty Images

What happens when a museum no longer wants part of its collection? Since the pandemic began, a notable number of museums have engaged in the practice of deaccessioning — essentially, selling off certain works of art. There are guidelines set up by the Association of Art Museum Directors to govern exactly how different museums do this. As for why they do this, those reasons are also numerous, ranging from wanting to diversify an institutional collection to grappling with operational expenses.

Now, one of the highest-profile examples of a deaccessioned work of art is heading to auction at Christie’s. That would be Tête de femme (Fernande), a 1909 cast of a Pablo Picasso sculpture. As ARTnews reports, this had been in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art since 1995.

What led the Met to seek to auction off this cast? The short version is simple: they got another one. Prominent collector Leonard Laudner donated a number of Cubist works of art to the museum. Among the works Laudner donated was another cast of the Picasso sculpture in question. And, like some sort of Cubist riff on Highlander, there can be only one.

According to the ARTnews article, Christie’s estimates that the sculpture will sell for around $30 million, with the proceeds going to fund new additions to the Met’s collection. Whoever buys this will also have a piece of art history, due to it being the first Cubist sculpture Picasso created.

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