Having just reviewed the Picasso painting market, let’s turn for a moment to see how his prints have been faring. In short, prices have held or gone up, but the most appreciation appears to have occurred among the most valuable prints. The particular winners of the season are the few rare proofs that were offered and, more significantly, the nicer unsigned prints.
The season’s highlights include the beautiful, rare and unpublished but smallish aquatint of Françoise (Baer 907, not in Bloch), which sold with all three states for a whopping $588,000. Yet the first two states are not that beautiful in their own right, primarily interesting in depicting the progression of Picasso’s thoughts. And the third and final state last sold at auction in 2003 for just $45,000. Considering that most of the beauty and value reside in the third state, I would call this a roughly ten-fold appreciation over four years. States II and III are shown below:
An unsigned L’Egyptienne (or, more formally, Torse de femme, B746), generally acknowledged as one of Picasso’s ten best prints, in perfect condition, sold for $121,000, comparing favorably to the last signed one at auction, in suboptimal condition, which brought in around $170,000, as I recall (not in Gordon’s) several months before.
The rare, unsigned and unpublished aquatint commemorating Picasso’s marriage to Jacqueline, Jacqueline en Mariée, De Face I (Baer 1089, not in Bloch) saw its fourteenth state (of eighteen) sell for $50,400, triple the last price for the sixth state (which is at least as nice and, in my opinion, even nicer) half-a-year earlier.
And, of course, Vollard Suite prints, linocuts, and portrait lithographs keep upwardly spiraling, including a Blind Minotaur like ours (Bloch 225), which sold for $154,000. Similarly, the better 347 Series works continued to climb upwards, though they have yet to be fully appreciated.
Great works that remain grossly undervalued, in my opinion, include two late ‘thirties prints in our current inventory (pardon me if this sounds too self-serving): Le Combat (Bloch 301) and Trois Femmes (Les Trois Grâces Couronnées de Fleurs, Bloch 303). Also, the better 156 Series works have yet to catch up, though it’s difficult to judge a market trend on the basis of the single great one that was recently offered.