Is the Insurance Value of Picasso’s Guernica Close to 3 bln USD?

By Dirk Vanduffel - Thursday, July 6, 2017
Is the Insurance Value of Picasso’s Guernica Close to 3 bln USD?

Every now and then an arts publication will release a top 10 ranking of some form: 10 best booths at an art fair, 10 best paintings at an art fair, 10 best museums, and so on. All of these lists are extremely subjective. They will vary widely according to who is writing them. You can only achieve an objective ranking by using pure data as your listing criteria. Artdependence reached out to Christies and Sothebys to gather information on the most expensive auction lots from September 2016 to June 2017. We used the data to create a list, ranking the top 10 most valuable pieces of art according to pure market value.

Is the Insurance Value of Picasso’s Guernica Close to 3 bln USD?

Every now and then an arts publication will release a top 10 ranking of some form: 10 best booths at an art fair, 10 best paintings at an art fair, 10 best museums, and so on. All of these lists are extremely subjective. They will vary widely according to who is writing them. You can only achieve an objective ranking by using pure data as your listing criteria. This got us thinking: could we use a data-driven approach to create a different kind of list?

Artdependence reached out to Christies and Sothebys to gather information on the most expensive auction lots from September 2016 to June 2017. We used the data to create a list, ranking the top 10 most valuable pieces of art according to pure market value.

10 most expensive paintings at Christies and Sothebys auctions from September 2016 to June 2017 (all prices in USD):

1/ Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled $110,487,504               

2/ Claude Monet, Meule (Grainstack) $81,447,500     

3/Willem de Kooning, Untitled XXV $66,327,500           

4/ Gustav Klimt, Bauerngarten (Blumengarten) $59,092,448  

5/ Edvard Munch, Pikene Pa Broen (Girls on the bridge) $54,487,500    

6/ Cy Twombly, Leda and the Swan $52,887,500          

7/ Francis Bacon, Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer $51,767,500                    

8/ Chen Rong (13 th century) As Catalogued in Shiqu Baoji, Six Dragons $48,967,500            

9/ Max Beckman, Holle der Vogel $45,834,365                               

10/ Pablo Picasso, Femme assise, robe bleue $45,047,500          

But there are many ways of looking at data. These pure valuations only tell a part of the story of the true value of a piece, so we decided to look at the data in a different way. In our second list, we ranked the art works by value per square cm. The results were completely different, turning our rankings upside down.

10 most expensive paintings at Christies and Sotheby's ranked by sq cm price (USD):

1/ Francis Bacon, Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer $15.937 / sq cm

2/ Claude Monet, Meule (Grainstack) $12,164 / sq cm

3/ Pablo Picasso, Femme assise, robe bleue $10,284 / sq cm

4/ Edvard Munch, Pikene Pa Broen (Girls on the bridge) $5,262 / sq cm

5/ Gustav Klimt, Bauerngarten (Blumengarten) $4,883 / sq cm

6/ Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled $3,486 / sq cm

7/ Chen Rong (13 th century) As Catalogued in Shiqu Baoji, Six Dragons $3,241 / sq cm

8/ Max Beckman, Holle der Vogel $2,387 / sq cm

9/ Willem de Kooning, Untitled XXV $1,516 / sq cm

10/ Cy Twombly, Leda and the Swan $1,38 / sq cm

This data fascinated us. We wanted to take a closer look at what these findings meant. Could they tell us anything about the presumed value of some other works? Extrapolating from the data about Picasso’s value per square cm (based on the sale of Femme Assise, robe bleue), we looked at the value of the Guernica – Picasso’s mural size paining. The Guernica stands at 3.49 meters tall and 7.76 meters wide.

Using our presumed value for Picasso’s works per square cm ($10,284 / sq cm), we find it to have an insurance value of $2,733,966,190. Of course, the Guernica is not for sale, but the figures are still astounding.

Picasso painted The Guernica at his home in Paris in 1937 and is one of his most overtly political works. It was created as a response to a violent bombing in the Basque Country village of Guernica, supported by right-wing Spanish nationalists and carried out by German and Italian warplanes. Picasso is said to have read an article about the bombing in The Times newspaper and been inspired to pause all other work to create the piece. The epic painting is often cited as an important piece of anti-war art and is credited with drawing public attention to the civil war taking place in Spain. The painting depicts a world devoid of colour in which a series of displaced people are found in the grips of suffering and violence. The Guernica is currently kept at the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid. 

There is currently no listed price for Guernica and it is not expected to go to sale. Some valuations have placed it around the $200m mark. 

Image above: Guernica by Pablo Picasso. 1937. Oil on canvas. 349 cm × 776 cm. Source: PICASSO, la exposición del Reina-Prado. Guernica is in the collection of Museo Reina SofiaMadrid.

Dirk defines the overall policy of ArtDependence Magazine, in addition to conducting interviews. He specializes in valuation and auctioning.

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Image of the Day

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Femme au béret orange et au col de fourrure (Marie‐Thérèse), executed 4 December 1937. Oil on canvas. 24⅛ x 18⅛ in (61.2 x 46.1 cm)

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Femme au béret orange et au col de fourrure (Marie‐Thérèse), executed 4 December 1937. Oil on canvas. 24⅛ x 18⅛ in (61.2 x 46.1 cm)

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