Billionaire Bill Koch Sells Picasso’s Reversible Raunchy Painting ‘La Gommeuse’ – The Rare ‘Blue Period’ Artwork Fetches $67.45 Million

Billionaire Bill Koch sold a raunchy reversible painting by renowned artist Picasso for $67.45 million. Called La Gommeuse or The Cabaret Dancer, the main painting depicts a naked woman. However, hidden for over a century was another painting created by the maestro, which was revealed at the turn of this century.

American billionaire Bill Koch sold a painting from his personal collection. The Picasso portrait of a nightclub singer which features a second painting on the reverse sold for an astronomical, but not unbelievable, sum of $67.45 million in a New York auction. The second painting, just like the life of Picasso, remained a mystery and was hidden underneath the lining of the main painting for a century, until it was accidentally discovered and then carefully uncovered during conservation work in the year 2000.

Billionaire Bill Koch Sells Picasso’s Reversible Raunchy Painting ‘La Gommeuse’
(Photo by Justin Tallis / Getty Images)

The reversible painting was drawn by Picasso when he was just 19 years old. He drew it during the famous “Blue Period,” between 1901 and 1904. Paintings from this time period rarely come up for auction and usually command top dollar, and the reversible painting was no exception. It was the time Picasso mostly painted monochromatic paintings in shades of blue and blue-green. Despite the overwhelming evidence of partiality to the monochromatic hues, Picasso chose to paint La Gommeuse in multiple colors perhaps to correctly depicte the various shades of a naked woman. According to the auction house, “The woman’s very body defines the perverse beauty of the age.”

Picasso painted the nude woman right after his friend Carlos Casagemas committed suicide in 1901. Incidentally, it was during this time that Picasso and his close friend and roommate Pere Mañach were experimenting with paintings that clearly seemed to be overly obsessed with the intoxicated life of Paris. It is not clear why Picasso chose to draw a comical portrait of his roommate Pere Mañach frolicking nude along a landscape on the back of La Gommeuse. However, it is common for painters like Picasso to hide such mysteries in their paintings. Others speculate the painters were more interested in creating art than selling it. Moreover, many artists were quite broke, and this might be the reason Picasso chose not to waste the opposite side of a good canvas.

Billionaire Bill Koch Sells Picasso’s Reversible Raunchy Painting ‘La Gommeuse’
(Photo by Justin Tallis / Getty Images)

While many believe the second painting was discovered during conservation work, New York Post reports, it was Bill Koch himself who noticed the same while he was hanging the painting in 2000. A representative of Sotheby’s, the auction house that auctioned the painting, said,

“It gives a wonderful added dimension. The value sits in the front, but it [the reverse] does give you a glimpse into what Picasso’s life must have been like in 1901 when he had just arrived in Paris and was still a relatively impoverished artist.”

Though Bill Koch was aware of the mystery of the reversible painting since 2000, the world got its first glimpse of the reverse side in the painting’s 114-year existence, as part of the Sotheby’s auction. The painting was auctioned for a record setting price of $67.45 million. Swiss dealer Doris Ammann bought the reversible painting, reported the Wall Street Journal. While the price was merely $7.5 million above its estimated price, Bill Koch, made a huge profit. He had bought the painting for just $3 million in 1984.

Besides the reversible painting, Koch also reportedly made even more money at Thursday’s sale of Impressionist and modern art, which brought in a total of $306.7 million, reported Metro. A Vincent van Gogh piece, too, sold at the auction at an equally impressive price of $54 million. Describing the van Gogh piece, the auction house said,

“Paysage Sous un Ciel Mouvemente” (“Moving Sky Over a Landscape”) was painted a year before the artist’s death and shows storm clouds over fields outside Arles, France”

[Photo by Justin Tallis / Getty Images]