A Picasso painting depicting a guitar on a table has sold at auction for $37.1 million

Guitar on a Table, by Pablo Picasso
(Image credit: Sotheby's)

Guitar on a Table, a painting by legendary Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, has sold at auction for $37.1 million, after sitting for three decades at the New York Museum of Modern Art.

Created by Picasso in 1919, the cubist painting – part of the personal collection of CBS founder William S. Paley from 1946 until his death in 1990 – sold via Sotheby’s for the astonishing sum on Monday (November 14). 

Since 1990, the piece had been looked after by the New York Museum of Modern Art.

The painting depicts, as its name suggests, a guitar on a table, though in the avant-garde cubism style pioneered by Picasso in the early 20th century. 

Picasso’s distorted take on reality makes it hard to ascertain the type of instrument he used as his subject, though we interpret it as an acoustic guitar, owing to what looks like a quadrilateral soundhole. Only four tuning machines can be seen, though a bass guitar is off the table – pardon the pun – as the bass was first invented by Paul Tutmarc in the ‘30s.

Picasso's Guitar on a Table

(Image credit: Michael Bowles/Getty Images for Sotheby’s)

The painting was expected to sell for $25 million, but far exceeded that figure.

Guitar on a Table was part of a wider auction hosted by Sotheby’s selling artwork from Paley’s collection. Other items included Joan Miró’s 1949 abstract Painting, which sold for $1.4 million, again far exceeding its $700,000 – $1 million estimate.

Guitars were the subject of many more Picasso works, including one of his most famous, The Old Guitarist, an oil painting created between late 1903 and early 1904 depicting an elderly man playing an acoustic guitar.

Pablo Picasso's The Old Guitarist

(Image credit: Pablo Picasso)

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Sam is a Staff Writer at Guitar World, also creating content for Total Guitar, Guitarist and Guitar Player. He has well over 15 years of guitar playing under his belt, as well as a degree in Music Technology (Mixing and Mastering). He's a metalhead through and through, but has a thorough appreciation for all genres of music. In his spare time, Sam creates point-of-view guitar lesson videos on YouTube under the name Sightline Guitar (opens in new tab).