Le Marin (1943) was set to be the star lot of Christie’s Impressionist and Modern evening sale on Tuesday. But as Bloomberg’s Katya Kazakina first reported late Sunday, Le Marin was damaged Friday, and needs to be restored before it can be sold. It is almost unheard of for an auction house to pull such a major lot from a sale on such short notice and Christie’s later released a statement explaining that the work, which is a rare Picasso self-portrait, was “accidentally damaged Friday during the final stages of preparation for Christie’s May 12-15 exhibition.” Conservators have advised the house on how to begin the restoration process, according to the statement.
The withdrawal will blow a significant hole in Christie’s auction week total. Christie’s had found a third-party guarantor to ensure the work would sell for near the $70 million estimate, though bidding could have pushed the price much higher. The auction house’s former contemporary chairman Brett Gorvy told Artsy in April that the work could fetch north of $100 million. And Le Marin comes with a impeccable provenance: Before Wynn purchased the work from Netscape co-founder Jim Clark, it spent decades in the collection of Sally and Victor Ganz, collectors who were admired for having a keen eye for remarkable works. Auction experts have said that the 1997 sale of the Ganz estate kickstarted an era of sky-high prices for the artist.