After more than an hour of bidding Saturday night at the 50th Yellowstone Art Museum Art Auction, the gallery quieted.

“I gotta take a swig of water,” auctioneer Merton Musser said.

Throughout the night the distorted, framed face of a man looked out from the wall behind Musser and toward the audience, his right eye magnified, his left miniaturized, both contained within seemingly liquid lines inside the boundaries of his angular face.

A lineoleum cut printed on watermarked papers, the face was that of 16th century artist El Greco, considered one of the most influential artists in the history of Spain. The depiction of El Greco, however, was not a self-portrait.

“Our next piece ladies and gentlemen is a Pablo Picasso,” Musser said. “This print has tremendous appeal for the serious collector, ladies and gentleman. Need I say anymore?”

The print is valued at $89,000 and was provided to the YAM by Galerie Michael. It is titled “Portrait d’Homme a la Fraise, Variation d’apres El Greco,” and is dated back to 1962. Musser started the bidding at $100,000 and the room remained quiet.

“I thought I’d ask, it never hurts to ask,” he said and the room broke out into laughter.

Less than 10 minutes later the sale had closed after several tense back-and-forths between bidders. The Pablo Picasso print went to a buyer for $62,500.

In its 50 years, the YAM auction had never before featured a Picasso, and YAM senior curator said it’s rare to see any of Picasso’s work at a Montana museum. He guessed it had been several years since one had been in the YAM. Read more