Picasso painting fetches $39 million in NY auction

NEW YORK - Pablo Picasso's 1932 oil painting "Le Sauvetage" sold at auction for more than US$31 million (S$39 million) on Wednesday after a bidding war at Sotheby's in New York which saw it surge past its estimated pre-sale price.

The surrealist master's enigmatic work - which was last sold a decade ago - went under the hammer for US$31.525 million following frenzied bidding over several minutes.

The painting had been expected to fetch between US$14 million and US$18 million.

The painting was part of 14 Picasso works offered by Sotheby's as part of its auction of Impressionist and Modern Art.

In total, eight lots were sold for an aggregate US$62.088 million.

However one of the lots expected to generate most activity - Picasso's "Tete de Marie-Therese" ("Head of Marie-Therese"), valued between $15 million and $20 million, failed to find a buyer.

Another important work "La Seance du Matin" by French master Henri Matisse, sold for $19.205 million, just below its lower estimate of US$20 million.

A canvas by French impressionist Claude Monet, "Le Pont Japonais" ("The Japanese Bridge") meanwhile fetched $15.845 million, in line with its estimated range of between US$12 million and US$18 million.

Sotheby's reported total sales of just under US$219 million.