June 30, 2006

Lloyd Webber to auction Picasso to benefit charity

By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber's
foundation will sell a Picasso portrait that is expected to
fetch over $40 million at auction, with the proceeds being
donated to charity, Christie's said on Friday.

The 1903 work from the artist's Blue Period, "Angel
Fernandez de Soto," will be sold at Christie's fall auction of
Impressionist and modern art on November 8.

The haunting portrait of Picasso's close friend, who he met
in 1899 in Barcelona and with whom he remained friends until de
Soto's death during the Spanish Civil War, is expected to sell
for $40 million to $60 million.

In recent years, Picasso portraits have achieved remarkable
prices. His "Boy With a Pipe" holds the record for any art sold
at auction at $104 million, while a 1941 portrait of his
mistress, "Dora Maar with cat," exceeded $95 million this
spring -- more than double the expected sale price.

"We are thrilled to offer a work of such stature by
Picasso," said Guy Bennett, Christie's head of Impressionist
and modern art in New York. He added in a statement that the
oil-on-canvas was "one of the most personal and powerful works
from the Blue Period."

The record for a Blue Period work is $55 million, set in
2000 by "Woman with arms crossed."

Lloyd Webber, the theater composer known for a string of
hits including "Cats," "Evita," "Jesus Christ Superstar" and
"The Phantom of the Opera," which in January became the
longest-running show in Broadway history, bought the work in
1995 for $29.1 million.

He will make no personal gain from the sale, Christie's
said, with the proceeds benefiting "a variety of charitable
purposes" which were not identified.