Record-Breaking Picasso or Its Former Home: What's the Better Deal?

If you are the anonymous oligarch or hedge-fund honcho who shelled out $106.5 million for a Picasso painting this week at a Christie's auction, will you please identify yourself?

Thanks, because if you have any money leftover in your Cayman Islands account, a few eager real estate brokers would like to sell you a place to hang your trophy picture.

And not just any house: It's the mid-century modern masterpiece in L.A.'s ritzy Holmbly Hills neighborhood which was owned by the late art collectors and patrons, Frances and Sidney F. Brody. Their estate was selling the picture.

That would be cool. Oh, by the way, the house is listed at $25.9 million -- chump change when compared to the price of the painting.

So what's a better deal, the painting or the house?
The 11,500-square-foot house has 5 bedrooms, a floating staircase, a pool (with guesthouse) and a tennis court on 2.3 acres. Designed in 1949 by architect A. Quincy Jones, it's considered a modernist icon -- and the place, of course, where your painting, "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust," hung for more than 50 years.

At least you'd know your painting would feel at home.

Nice pedigree to be sure, but at that price it's expensive, considering that some mid-century houses in the area are going unsold or are being discounted.

The painting, which set a new auction record, isn't a bargain either. And it's always uncertain how high an artist's work (even blue chip artists like Picasso) will sell for, because the art market -- much like the real estate market -- can be fickle and unpredictable.

But at least with the house, you'll have a roof over your head. The artwork is a late Picasso, a period that is hot right now but might not be in years to come.

There's also the chance you could harm the value of your Picasso by accidentally jabbing your elbow into it, while your house wouldn't feel a thing. So if you've got the down payment, I say go for it.

The house wins this time, but never underestimate the value of a Picasso. In case you didn't know, he's a pretty well-known artist.
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