A final note about the recent Minotauromachie conference. Or rather about the Q & A which followed, in which one lugubrious chap posed the question, rhetorical no doubt, to the distinguished panelists: what would Picasso have thought about Iraq? At the time I confess to having been a bit annoyed by the question. Here we were discussing the meanings of Picasso’s work on an ethereal level, aspiring to the universal meanings he achieved and not getting bogged down in mundane matters such as politics.

Yet, frankly, the Bush administration forced the issue by covering the tapestry reproduction of Picasso’s Guernica, which hangs at the entrance of the U.N. Security Council, in preparation for Colin Powell’s fateful call to war. Someone in our government apparently had enough culture to perceive that Guernica is an anti-war statement. Perhaps he knew that it is THE iconic anti-war statement of the last century. Too bad, though, that the UN, whose prime directive is world peace, capitulated to censorship of its anti-war message, if indeed it had any choice—after all, it is housed on American soil—to accommodate American war mongering.

The U.S. has a long history of censorship of art. Many public sculptures have been rejected, and many art exhibitions have been edited, in order to protect the purported innocence of our people. (Check out the fascinating history of this subject in the very well written book, Visual Shock, by Michael Kammen.) Yet most prior instances of such censorship were spurred by the sexual content of the art, no doubt a holdover of our ancestral Puritanical prudishness.

As for Picasso, we all know what he would have said. He might have even painted a picture, as he did for the Korean War. One hopes that the Maestro’s exhortation for peace would not have fallen on deaf ears.

At least some New Yorkers noticed the flagrant violation of Picasso’s anti-war message. Note the photo of their protest above.

Art Crime in the News

It has both a good and bad week for art crime in the news.  The bad news is the heist of a number of Picassos from his granddaughter Diana’s home, two paintings of which (shown below) have been valued together at $66 million.

Theft from Diana, 2007.jpg

On the bright side is the following article that AP ran on March 8, 2007:

“A couple who sold art through televised auctions admitted selling bogus works and forging signatures of artists including Picasso, Chagall and Dali in a scam that bilked buyers out of millions of dollars, prosecutors said.

“In court documents filed Monday, Kristine Eubanks, 49, and her husband, Gerald Sullivan, 51, of La Canada, in Los Angeles County, were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and interstate transportation of stolen property and violating tax laws.  The operation involved the couple’s satellite television show ‘Fine Arts Treasures Gallery’.  Prosecutors said the couple agreed to cooperate in a continuing criminal probe to capture other scam artists.  The two have not formally entered pleas.

“The government estimated that the show defrauded more than 10,000 people who paid more than $20 million for bogus art.  Investigators seized nearly $4 million when Eubanks and Sullivan were arrested in September.”