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Picasso paintings displayed at Las Vegas hotel sell for more than $100m

Eleven Picasso paintings and other works that helped turn Las Vegas into an unlikely destination for art have been sold at auction for more than $100m.

The Sotheby’s auction was held on Saturday at the Bellagio hotel and casino in Las Vegas, where the works had been on display for years, and took place two days before the 140th birthday of the Spanish artist on 25 October.

The Bellagio has always been renowned for its art and five of the paintings had hung on the walls of its fine dining restaurant, which is called Picasso. The restaurant will continue to display 12 other Picasso works.

The highest price was fetched by the 1938 painting Femme au Béret Rouge-Orange, which depicts Picasso’s lover and muse Marie-Thérèse Walter. It sold for $40.5m, about $10m over the pre-sale estimate.

Femme au Béret Rouge-Orange, which fetched $40.5m at the auction.
Femme au Béret Rouge-Orange, which fetched $40.5m at the auction. Photograph: Bridget Bennet/Reuters

The large-scale portraits Homme et Enfant and Buste d’Homme sold for $24.4m and $9.5m respectively, while smaller works on ceramic, such as Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe which sold for $2.1m, went for three or four times their pre-sale estimate.

The buyers’ names were not disclosed.

Saturday’s sale was part of a bid by casino and hotel group MGM Resorts to further diversify its vast collection to include more art from women, people of colour and emerging nations as well as from LGBTQ artists and artists with disabilities.

American museums and art galleries have been working to broaden their collections following the widespread cultural reckoning in 2020 over racism at all levels of US society.

La Fenêtre de Latelier La Californie, left, Buste d’Homme, centre, and Nature Morte aux Fleurs et au Compotier at the auction in Las Vegas.
La Fenêtre de Latelier La Californie, left, Buste d’Homme, centre, and Nature Morte aux Fleurs et au Compotier at the auction in Las Vegas. Photograph: Ronda Churchill/AFP/Getty Images

A 2019 Public Library of Science study of 18 leading US museums found that 85% of the artists on display are white and 87% are men.

The MGM Resorts fine arts collection boasts about 900 works by 200 artists, including modern pieces by Bob Dylan and David Hockney. It was started more than 20 years ago by Steve Wynn, former owner of the Bellagio and former chief executive of Wynn Resorts.