Recommended Reading

1. Pablo Picasso: Catalogs of the Printed Graphic Work, Volume One: 1904-1967 by Georges Bloch (see http://www.art-books.com/cgi-bin/artbooks/467-2.html), and is the single most useful print catalogue raisonné. Despite thumbnail pictures, it catalogues 64 years of Picasso’s printmaking career, all but the last three years, and thus provides a wonderful overview of his art in a single, handy volume. Be sure, however, to get the new and improved edition recently published in San Francisco (the old edition is very hard to find, anyway).

2. PICASSO: THE REAL FAMILY STORY, by Olivier Widmaier Picasso, Prestel Verlag, 2004. I am a man of few idols, but, as my friend Joey says of me, when I find something I truly like, I take it till it kills me. In music, those idols are Garcia and Dylan, and, in art, it goes without saying. (We’ll leave literature alone for the while.) I accept my idols as flawed creatures since, as they say, to err is human. I’ve often said that I’m glad that Hitler was a lousy artist, because I’d have to draw the line somewhere. But though I’ve long considered Jerry a nice guy with a wonderful personality, I’ve thought of Picasso and Dylan as mean-spirited people with whom I probably would not have wanted to be friends, had the opportunity presented itself. Until now. Olivier Widmaier Picasso, son of Maya and grandson of Picasso and Marie-Therese, goes a long way in debunking what I now realize are the slanderous myths that shroud Picasso’s life in the sensationalistic media of our times. Arianna may know how to sell copy, but this book reads like a factual, accurate account.

Turns out Picasso was a nice guy! He was generous with all of his wives and mistresses. He couldn’t divorce Olga due to legal constraints and her obstructions, but proposed to Marie-Therese the very year his first wife died (she refused him, perhaps wisely). He was also very generous with many friends, strangers and various causes. He was a delightful, charismatic conversationalist and a good friend. If he retreated into reclusion late in life, it was only to create the most art possible in his race against death. He loved and cared for his children and grandchildren, with only occasional and understandable exceptions. Marina, that unfortunate basket case, was the product of an annoying, gold-digging mother with whom Picasso and Paulo, her ex-husband, wanted nothing more to do—the grandchildren unfortunately bore the brunt. Francoise Gilot, who wrote the only other memoir by a family member or consort that rings true, is more critical of Picasso, and serves as a perhaps useful foil for Olivier’s generally rosier account. One must of course admit that Picasso, like the rest of us, was no saint. But he certainly wasn’t the monster the media have made him out to be.

3. Picasso: Style and Meaning, by Elizabeth Cowling, Phaidon Press, 2002. This is an outstanding, thoroughly researched and very readable landmark book about the meaning of Picasso’s art and to the antecedents and development of his many styles.

4. Picasso: Magic, Sex, Death, by John Richardson, three lectures on two DVDs, 2003

5. A Guide to Collecting Picasso’s Prints, by yours truly (click the “Collecting Guide” link on the right)

6. Picasso: The Last Years, 1963-1973, by Gert Schiff.  Though John Richardson’s essay in the Gagosian catalogue is wonderful, I think very highly of Schiff’s essay on Late Picasso, which he penned in the early ‘eighties, long before Late Picasso was fashionable, much less understood by most of us.

Artist’s Proofs

Question: Can you tell me something about the fact that [the print in which I’m interested] is one of the artist’s proofs? Does that mean that because it isn’t numbered it is of less value than the rest of the edition? -Judith C.

Response: Most of Picasso’s prints were released in editions of 50, with a small number (usually 5 to 20) artist’s proofs. An edition of 50 would be numbered 1/50 to 50/50 by a hand other than Picasso’s. Whereas the artist’s proofs bore no numbers, they were usually inscribed with the words “epreuve d’artiste”, also by another hand.

There are certainly no hard and fast rules about the relative value of artist’s proofs. Some dealers will accord a 10% premium to numbered prints because of their customers’ preferences. I’ve, however, met many dealers and collectors who don’t assign any differential valuation to numbered and unnumbered prints.

Some dealers will tell you that artist’s proofs are more valuable because those are the ones the artist kept for himself, and the artist could be expected to have kept the best for himself. Others will tell you that Picasso handled and scrutinized his proofs more than the numbered edition. Apart from the claim that the artist’s proofs are therefore more valuable, which they’re not, at least on theoretical grounds, these dealers’ contentions may be true, but they don’t add up to much. The exception to the rule is the singular case in each edition of the “bon à tirer” print, in which that “ready to print” designation is in fact inscribed by the artist’s own hand and lends significant added value to the print.

As a practical matter, however, artist’s proofs are usually more desirable than the typical numbered print because they’re in better condition. Having been kept by Picasso throughout his life and then often much longer by his estate, or having been kept by the printers or publishers, the artist’s proofs were much more likely to have escaped the ravages of the elements and of non-archival matting and glazing, and are thus likely to be in much better shape than the numbered proofs. Many have spent their lives in the dark, as underprivileged as a veal, and have only just seen the light of day. Therefore, at least prior to inspection, my preference always leans toward an artist’s proof.

A corollary question to that posed by the reader is the relative value of differently numbered proofs, i.e., is number 1 better than number 50? You might think that the impression of the print numbered 1 might be better than the last one numbered. It however isn’t, for a couple of reasons. First, the vast majority of Picasso’s intaglio prints were steel-faced (a process in which the relatively soft copper plate is hardened by plating it with steel). As such, one would expect no differences in the quality of the first and last impression in an edition of fifty or even, in the case of the Vollard Suite, an edition of, say, 325. Secondly, as my friend and fellow art dealer, Emanuel Silberstein, himself a former printer, has pointed out, since the prints are stacked as they exit the printing press, the last one printed is, if anything, more likely to be the first one numbered.

The Determinants of the Relative Value of Prints

Question: Maybe you can help me understand why one print could be $95k and another could be $2k—is it all rarity? —Luke P.

Response: Supply certainly influences demand, but it is not the only factor. A print’s price is also determined by the demand for that particular print, the richness of the impression (of the inked plate, block, or stone on the paper), the condition of the print, the size of the print, its colorfulness, and the presence of a signature. The demand for a given print is largely determined by the quality of the design, but is also subject to other prevailing preferences in the marketplace. For example, in Picasso prints, female portraiture generally commands a higher price than battle scenes. -Kobi

YOUR OWN PERSONAL PICASSO PRINT PERSONALITY PROFILE (PPPPP)

In order to understand individual variations in taste regarding Picasso and, specifically, Picasso’s prints, the correlations between these preferences and other cultural predispositions in fine art and, for starters, music, and, ultimately, in order to better understand the human mind, I’ve been toying with the idea of compiling a Personal Picasso Print Personality Profile (PPPPP) for each of you readers who have waded this far down into this tripe. It would of course require that you respond to that dreaded document, the questionnaire, but, to make it easy on you, I’d accept answers to any of the questions you chose to answer even if you didn’t complete the entire questionnaire. How’s that? I’m also open to suggestions of other questions. Here’s my opening list (for want of sufficient website expertise, I’d ask you to simply cut and paste the questions and your answers into the email that comes up after clicking on the “Comments” link below):

a. Which are your favorite and least favorite prints on our website, and, for extra credit, why? (Please list the Bloch numbers if you can, since many of the titles of Picasso’s work were endlessly reused, not the least of which reason is the recurrence of certain of his central themes.)
b. Which are some of your favorite and least favorite Picasso prints or works in other media not on our site, and, for extra credit, why?
c. List your favorite artists in order of preference, including Picasso, and your least favorite artists. Specifically, what do you think of Chagall, Matisse, and Miro prints, and why?
d. List your favorite and least favorite musical artists or genres. (I’d especially like to know what you think of the Grateful Dead and Dylan. Sorry, I had to ask….)
e. Has your taste ever changed some time after purchasing an art object? Do you experience buyer’s remorse? What are the conditions which promote permanent satisfaction, and, by contrast, subsequent regret?

Fake Picassos at Costco (Reported in the NY Times)

Costco FakeThe following article was brought to my attention by Richard with an attached message, “for your amusement”:

It’s Costco, but Is It Picasso? Art Sale in Doubt

By CAROL KINO

From diamonds to dog food to Dom Pérignon Champagne, Costco is known as an astute marketer of high and low. Recently, it even ventured into the rarefied world of Picasso, selling a crayon drawing at its Web site for a bargain $39,999.99.

The buyer, Louis Knickerbocker, a meat distributor from Newport Beach, Calif., had never fancied himself a big-league collector. But as he was cruising to work in his sport utility vehicle one day, a radio news report about the Costco offering roused him to action.

Mr. Knickerbocker, 39, quickly called his wife, Diana, on his cellphone and asked her to race to the Web site and charge the purchase to his American Express card.

“They just sell the top quality — whatever you buy at Costco, whether it’s a washing machine or a vacuum cleaner,” he said in an interview. “I just thought, if it’s a Picasso, you can’t go wrong.”

“Worst-case scenario, we can always return it,” he recalls telling his wife.

Actually, the worst-case scenario may be that the drawing is not a Picasso — an assertion that has Costco scrambling to live up to its consumer-friendly image.

The work, “Drawing Arles,” depicting a faun, came ready-to-hang in a gold frame; the store even provided a photographic certificate of authenticity signed by Picasso’s daughter Maya Widmaier-Picasso, who also authenticates his works for auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s.

But as Mr. Knickerbocker discovered this week, navigating Costco’s fine-art offerings can be a tricky business. Interviewed in Paris by The New York Times on Tuesday, Ms. Widmaier-Picasso, 70, said the certificate was forged.

As of Tuesday, a Picasso drawing titled “Picador in a Bullfight” was being offered at Costco’s Web site for a much steeper $145,999.99 — also with an authentication certificate bearing Ms. Widmaier-Picasso’s name. Bristling at a grammatical error in French and the spiky handwriting, she pronounced that document a forgery as well.

“It’s not at all my way of expressing myself,” she said in an interview, referring to the wording of the certificate. Peering at the signature, Ms. Widmaier-Picasso added, “It’s really ugly, really really.”

The artist’s daughter, 70, also cast doubt on the authenticity of the drawings. “My father knew that bulls have two testicles, in addition to something very masculine,” she said impishly, referring to the bull.

Contacted about Ms. Widmaier-Picasso’s remarks, Liz Elsner, a vice president for merchandising for Costco’s Web site division, said the company would promptly investigate. “Obviously we’re very concerned with what you’re telling us,” she said. She emphasized that, as with all Costco merchandise, Mr. Knickerbocker was free to return the artwork.

A few hours later, the bullfight drawing had been removed from Costco’s Web site.

Ms. Elsner emphasized that Costco had the Picassos independently verified by Jerry Bengis, an art appraiser in Coral Springs, Fla., who specializes in Dali prints. (Reached by telephone, Mr. Bengis said he provided documentation stating only that the certificates were consistent with others issued by Ms. Widmaier-Picasso.)

Ms. Elsner said the two Picassos were provided by reputable dealers with whom Costco has done business since it entered the fine-art market. The vendor is Jim Tutwiler of Boca Raton, Fla., who bought them from Rick Yamet, a fine-art vendor in Peekskill, N.Y.

Told of Ms. Widmaier-Picasso’s contention, Mr. Tutwiler said, “Are you serious?” and quickly provided Mr. Yamet’s telephone number.

Mr. Yamet said he obtained the drawings from a partner in Rome. “I’m beside myself,” he said. “Of course I have to take them back, and I have to go back to the source I got them from and get my money back.”

When buying Picassos accompanied by his daughter’s certificate, he said, he routinely has Ms. Widmaier-Picasso examine the certificate, he said. He said he had faxed the certificates for both Picassos to her, but this time she had not responded.

“I was getting no response for months and months. It became like an exercise in futility,” Mr. Yamet said. So an associate of his in Rome showed the drawings and certificates unofficially to an expert at Christie’s in Paris, who gave them a verbal nod, he said.

“This is terrible for my reputation,” he said, sounding distraught. “Costco’s not responsible, of course.”

Costco, which entered the fine-art market in 2003, sells artworks both through its Web site and at scattered road shows around the country, many of them conducted by Mr. Tutwiler. The shows are handled by two separate corporate divisions, and the vendors and artworks are always changing.

Although most of the headlines have been generated by last year’s Picasso sale, Costco’s current fine-art offerings seem to boil down to lithographs. In print circles, that can mean anything from an offset reproduction of a painting — in other words, a poster — to the sort of genuine “original print” that an established dealer might handle; that is, a work of art conceived as a lithograph from the start and produced in a limited edition. At press time, there was nothing of that nature on Costco’s site.

Of course, neophyte collectors — the type that Costco is likely to attract — may often lack experience in determining what gives an artwork market value. While Costco provides a phone number at its Web site for the vendor of each work of art so that prospective buyers can question the consigners directly, it is hard for an inexperienced collector to seek out those specific earmarks — a good provenance, inclusion in a catalogue raisonné, for example.

For the art world cognoscenti, the authentication affair may seem a tempest in a teapot, given the abundance of scrawled Picasso doodles, real and fake, to be found in galleries on every continent. And art scholars have long debated whether Ms. Widmaier-Picasso should be in the business of authentication.

Still, in reviewing the certificates in her apartment on the Quai Voltaire, she was emphatic about their falsity. She described the wording on the bullfight certificate, for instance, as strangely unfamiliar.

“I would have said, ‘In my opinion, I can certify that this drawing in pencil on paper measuring 12 by 24 centimeters representing a scene from a bullfight — I would put in more details concerning what’s on the actual drawing — is a work in the hand of my father.’

“On the same line, I would have written, for example, ‘ “Paris, le 14 mars,’ and I spell out the month. My lines always run from the far left to the far right, and there is no break between paragraphs.”

On the back of the certificate, Ms. Widmaier-Picasso applies a sticker marked with one or more of her fingerprints. “I could also use my entire hand if I wanted to,” she said. She then applies an embossed seal over the sticker and staples the sticker to the photograph. She said she always keeps a record of which finger she used for each authentication.

Of Mr. Knickerbocker’s certificate, she said: “I never, ever, ever write a date this way, with slashes, I don’t even know how to! And I always spell the month out in letters, never in numbers.”

Ms. Widmaier-Picasso also chuckled at the misspellings — “soussigné,” the masculine form of “undersigned,” instead of the feminine “soussignée,” and “cette dessin,” rather than the correct “ce dessin.” (“Dessin,” the French word for drawing, is masculine.)

But for Costco and its customer, who is much attached to his $40,000 doodle, it is no laughing matter.

Mr. Knickerbocker expressed skepticism about Ms. Widmaier-Picasso’s reaction to the drawings and the certificates.

“Seeing as she signed a lot of those things, who knows how many years ago, I’m not surprised if she’s going to say that it’s fake unless she has it in front of her,” he said. (Ms. Widmaier-Picasso viewed printouts of high-resolution digital photographs of the drawings and certificates.)

Mr. Knickerbocker, who once bought his wife a two-carat diamond ring at Costco, said he remains a loyal customer and that for now he has no plans to return the drawing.

“I think a lot of times with this, especially with art — high-end, number one — I’m sure that the art galleries hate that Costco’s selling art,” he reflected.

“I would still feel just as comfortable buying from Costco — even more so than buying from one of the other dealers — because I know that Costco stands behind what they sell.”

CRUISE SHIP ART AUCTIONS

Dear Kobi, While on a cruise ship last month we purchased what was represented as an original Picasso lithograph signed by Picasso. We asked to see a Picasso catalogue while on the ship, but the auctioneer did not have one. We purchased a Dali piece that was listed in the Dali catalogue and the auctioneer seemed genuine, so we decided to also purchase Le Clown, since their art firm had a written guarantee. I forgot about looking in a Picasso catalog until this week. When I couldn’t find the piece I contacted the art wholesaler and was told the piece was printed after a drawing donated to the Paris Peace Movement in 1968 and published the same year by Yamat Arts, NY and printed by Mourlot.

Since I can’t find the piece in the Picasso Project or in the Block catalogue Le Clown seems very suspicious to me. I came across your forum from the Picasso Project and after reading your comments and your web site I would really appreciate your thoughts on Le Clown. Once we get Le Clown settled I’d like to check with you on some other pieces we have an interest in. We are new to collecting art, and the more we learn the more we like Chagall, Calder, Miro, Dali and Picasso.

Thank you, Sharon T.

Dear Sharon, I have a weak spot for anyone who gets “taken” on a cruise ship. I do a fair number of appraisals and I’ve come across many instances of so-called art that was sold on cruises. I have occasionally encountered an original work of art by Picasso that exchanged hands in that venue. But the buyer ends up, without exception in my experience, with an overpriced print, a fake, or both.

The salient term describing your purchase is “after”. If you read Chapter 13, entitled “Collecting Pitfalls”, in my online manuscript A Guide to Collecting Picasso’s Prints, you should know all about them. Your piece is not original. The only questions are whether it’s a real “after”, i.e. a work of art created by an artist other than Picasso, or just a photoreproduction, and whether the work was actually signed by Picasso. Of course, the art dealer on the cruise was entirely fraudulent in initially claiming that the piece was an original Picasso. It is not an original Picasso in ANY sense of the word. You’re very astute to conclude that your piece is a fake since it’s not in Bloch. Very few original Picasso lithographs are not included in that catalogue, and those are generally exceptionally rare, not cruise ship material. -Kobi

The dual dangers of overpaying and of buying online

Dear Kobi, the article i read today [from your manuscript] was talking about the dangers of buying online and also the danger of paying too much for a work from a gallery because of overheads etc… this is a question i have asked myself for a while……which way to jump? take a risk online and buy hopefully a real and fair priced work or have a bit more piece of mind and buy from a brick and mortar gallery and in more cases than not pay too much for the work as they have great expenses like rent, staff, and their endless champagne and canapé parties.by online purchases i mean people such as yourself ( anyone who would even entertain buying a picasso for a second from ebay is clearly insane). are there other galleries such as yourself which you consider trustworthy, such as X or Y [names deleted]? i probably should not have asked that question because of the obvious conflict of interest but i hope you can forgive me and give me an honest opinion. thank you. i look forward to your reply. -Alessandro P.

Dear Alessandro, I’m delighted that you like my writing! Thanks so much for the positive feedback. And I agree entirely with your assessments and concerns. The only thing I would add is while you’re first developing a relationship with an art dealer, make sure you have enough time to check out the work with an impartial expert and the ability to return it without any reason. That includes potential purchases from me. I would feel better if you’ve had any works you might buy from us authenticated independently, because it serves both of our interests if you are confident that what you get from us is genuine.

I don’t personally know X, but I have spoken to him more than once and I have occasionally reviewed his inventory online. He clearly seems to have some authentic original prints by Picasso. They are intermixed with “afters”, but he identifies the “afters” as such, unlike some other dealers. I don’t know anything else about him or his business, but I have heard nothing bad.

The Y Gallery prints are fakes. The most obvious tip-off is that they’re the wrong sizes. As you start to delve more deeply into your research, you might benefit from purchasing at least the first volume of the catalogue raisonné of Picasso’s prints by Georges Bloch. It has all the right sizes, armed with which you could quickly discern most fakes. -Kobi

Dear Kobi, so is the online picasso project basically an online bloch? or does the bloch book give further information that the online project does not. i also look forward to viewing more of picassos work online as i think you have mentioned in earlier email that if i see a work that i really like you may be able to get it for me. -Alessandro P.

Dear Alessandro, Well, the Online Picasso Project (http://csdll.cs.tamu.edu:8080/picasso/) probably includes almost every Bloch number, but it also includes roughly a third of all of Picasso’s paintings, drawings, sculptures and ceramics, so it is a bit hard to wade through when you’re looking for a particular print or a particular Bloch number. It’s worth it, though, because the images are much larger than in Bloch. It doesn’t necessarily offer more information for any given print than does Bloch, but it may. Bloch is handy because all the prints are arranged in the numerical order assigned by Bloch as well as in chronological order. It’s also handy because it gives you a nice overview of Picasso’s prints without the distraction works in other media of the Online Picasso Project (OPP). Of course, the OPP is a wonderful resource, for which I am eternally grateful and which I consult on a daily basis.

I am of course happy to search for any Picassos you might want, naturally the best prices are usually of the ones we’ve already bought and which are already shown on our site. Those I’ve hunted down with attention to the price””when searching ad hoc for a particular print, the price might not be quite as low. Many particular prints are also very hard to find, as it happens especially when you’re looking for them, since the edition sizes of most Picasso prints are tiny (50 plus a few artist’s proofs). -Kobi

Fakes and fake letters of authenticity

Dear Kobi —

I appreciated your tales from Chapter 13 of the wonderful variety and diversity of Picasso fakes and fake letters of authenticity.

I assisted in the publicity regarding a bad guy named ABC, whom I exposed on my website www.milwaukeeworld.com for foisting some fake Picassos on the public. I was able to examine the fakes and the fake certificates of authenticity. You can learn a lot from forgeries, as you obviously know.

ABC did some time, but appears to be active in Florida. I have heard from many, many people who have either 1.) bought a fake and wish they had gone to my website first, or 2.) went to my website first and did not buy the fake.

I’m no expert, but some people seem staggeringly naive when it comes to art purchases. Yes, I’ve bought a few paintings and drawings (non-Picasso) when a bit liquored up, but I did my research beforehand.

Good luck with your projects.
Michael H

Dear Michael,

Thanks for the kind words. By the way, how is it that you perused our site if you don’t collect Picassos? -Kobi

Dear Dr. Ledor —
You certainly may post my stuff on your website Q&A section. If you go to my website and use the internal search engine for ABC, you’ll find a number of items I posted on the guy. I wrote about him on May 17, 2004, Oct 04, 2004, November 15, 2004, November 22 2004, January 3 2005, January 17, 2004 and March 28, 2005. He’s probably due for another one.

I got word this morning that the FBI is getting quite tired of ABC, and a special agent here in Milwaukee is itching to bring him down. The agent is James Doyle, and he has worked on art cases. (Check out what I wrote about DEF on Halloween. She’s doing time in Club Fed.)

I started writing art fraud / theft stories because of my interest in the subject. It occupies about a tenth of my space — public demand is high, and I feel like I am doing a service. Ostensibly I write about politics; I have been called a gossip columnist and I am ignored by talk radio. I am forever late writing history stories, for which there is a demand. I tell my editor, “history takes time.”

You might want to check out a guy named GHI. The daily papers ignored his crimes, and I wrote stuff on the website until they finally relented — way too late. Then I researched an article for Milwaukee Magazine that put him down for good. His biggest mistake — selling a stolen print to the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.
Don’t mess with Bud Selig! Sentencing is in May.

I’m tight with a number of dealers here (except the ones I send to jail). I’ve learned a few tricks that the forgers use, too. One dealer had a stash of 19c watermarked paper that could be converted into an original Whistler print in no time. I have a close affiliation with a Russian-born conservator Dmitri Rybchnikov (I think I messed up the spelling of his name.) He has an outfit called American Conservators, and he was the expert witness in the ABC trial. Not just fakes, but “laughable” fakes. His partner, Jeff Farkas, deals in paintings of various levels of quality, and his wife is a professor of Criminology, and was the teacher of FBI agent Doyle. I’ve got a Bierstadt in the office right now on loan from Jeff, who is trying to sell it on behalf of the owners. We’ve created a little gallery upstairs in my very large office space. I have no financial interest in it; it’s just fun to have this stuff around.

If you want to read some stories about rich people being wasteful with foundation money, read my stuff about the JKL Foundation, a local outfit with one of the finest collections of American furniture and decorative arts. These guys hate my guts. They did do a good show — Fakes from the JKL Collection. Great detective work.

You ask about my background — I studied art history and political science at Vassar College, where I was among the first male students. I also took studio courses and learned the techniques of wood and steel engraving, etching, aquatint, and even stone lithography. I spent my spare time going to museums and galleries to look at authentic works of art. I do not believe I have ever knowingly passed by a museum without entering. I’ve seen prints by the thousands, and still get excited by them. So, I can say stuff like, “Chagall’s later hand-colored works are inconsistent.” For crying out loud, Jackson Pollock applied pigment with more control than seen in Chagall’s later prints.

I came to writing quite late in life, having been turned down consistently until I lucked out at age 34 (1988) and they haven’t been able to shut me up since. I was also fortunate that some family friends were collectors. I saw my first Magrittes, Ernsts, Miros, Jasper Johnses in a private residence as a teenager. The portrait of the woman of the house was by Warhol. I remember her writing to Alexander Calder to get permission to repaint her Calder sculpture. I remember a David Smith sculpture from her back yard, and saw it in the National Gallery in October. Heady stuff!
I collect mostly drawings by Wisconsin artists. It’s a fun pursuit. I bought a $500 painting done by a local musician — it was the first painting he had sold, and I was tipsy for that one. I hung it in my house, and an art dealer noticed it and raved about my discovery.

I came rather late in life to the earning of an income (which does not come from writing, let me tell you). I am employed by Zigman Joseph Stephenson, an old-line Public Relations and Governmental Relations firm.

Just to finish my babbling, I am distressed by the gullibility of certain art purchasers and the rapacity of the fraudsters. There is so much decent art work, and so many legitimate dealers that I just cringe when an idiot buys junk from a thief. I think the true joy and value in collecting comes from knowing about what you are buying. It just astounds me that people will spend thousands on an item that upon cursory examination is not right. I would happily be fooled by a good fake, but I am insulted by cheap fakes.

If I may be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Very truly yours,
Michael H

Dear Michael,

You are truly hilarious, not to mention an altruist. But I have now calculated, based upon your figures, that I am one year older than you, so I hope you start treating me with greater respect. I must say that you made a much wiser decision in going to Vassar just after it went co-ed than my opting to attend Yale right after it underwent the same transformation. The difference was that yours was a predominantly female student body with a few curious boys and mine a predominantly male student body with a few heavily picked-over girls. So it goes. I was a late bloomer anyway and wouldn’t have known what to do with any more girls around….

I’m going to wade through your entire site and the specific links you’ve sent when I have a chance. I also plan on blogging everything you’ve sent me, not only for its content but also for the wonderfully endearing and humorous quality of your prose.

By the way, could you send pix of your discoveries, such as the unknown Wisconsin artist? Contrary to the prevailing opinion that for me there’s only Picasso, I have quite varied artistic tastes, and I’m always interested in beholding new talent….

And, dude, call me Kobi!