WUT WUZ ON DA BLOCK

The biggest steal this season, in my humble, came and went at Christie’s NY earlier this month in the form of a Picasso “Surrealist” oil on canvas, the 1929 Figure.  At 33 x 41 cm (13 x 16 1/8 in.), it is not a large painting but neither is it a particularly small one. These days Picasso Surrealism is not exactly the most sought after of his many periods, and quite a number of canvases from this period have sold at what I consider well below their relative worth, but none comes close to this bargain.  Its impressive provenance, including prior ownership by the storied Picasso dealer a generation or so ago, the Perls Galleries of New York, didn’t seem…

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The Artist, The Electrician, the Electrician’s Wife, the Electrician’s Uncle, and the Probe of the Presumably Purloined Picassos

By now you’ve probably heard about the treasure trove of presumably purloined Picasso works on paper that walked into Claude Picasso’s office a while back, in the hands of Picasso’s electrician and his wife.  Perhaps you caught the “60 Minutes” special on this story on Sept. 25th.  I totally missed it.  I had been dying with curiosity to see photos of this treasure trove, and I’m sure some were displayed during that segment.  But a dozen of them, a tantalizingly small number but more than had been published before, are illustrated online at  http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/60-minutes-overtime-look-inside-picasso-portfolio/10/, with the following introduction, “When 271 never-before-seen Picassos appeared in 2010 the art world was stunned. Were they really a gift or was the artwork stolen?…

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THE MUSEUM IN OUR BACKYARD

The SFMOMA finally reopened earlier this year, featuring a large and world-class contemporary art collection courtesy of the Fisher Family, founders of the Gap chain.  After several visits, I can in good conscience even refer to it as the “new and improved” SFMOMA.  My initial impression, however, wasn’t so rosy. Our first visit was all too brief.  Gina and I arrived past the hour of gaining admittance to the galleries.  We managed a walk through the lobby of the old building, then up a new staircase into the new wing, and finally down a flight of stairs leading to the colossal Stella, in which we happily lost ourselves, wandering in, through and about: Unlike many art and architecture aficionados, I loved the Mario Botta design…

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Eeny Meeny 

Q:  “Tete de femme” (Marie-Therese [Bloch 250]) is starting to get “under my skin”.  I am sure you understand the feeling.  What’s your opinion…own more individual works at lower prices, or wait and purchase more significant works (i.e. current case in point)?  -Gary J. A:  As you know, Gary, I think more like a collector than an art dealer, so “it’s getting under my skin” strikes me as a really apt metaphor.  It seems to me that when you reach the threshold of pulling the trigger on a given acquisition, the feeling you have is typically some combination of, “That is a great piece of art, I would love for it to grace our walls, it is within budget, and…

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Wuz NOT on da Block?

We recently round-filed our old auction catalogues.  They were displacing not just all the other books on the bookshelves, but they had even started crowding out the more animate inhabitants of our home.  So speaking strictly from memory, this season’s Imp/Mod auction catalogues nonetheless look a lot thinner than yesteryear’s.  What’s going on, you ask? The explanation seems pretty straightforward, though I cannot prove it, at least not without going to some trouble: the Chinese and the Russians must have become less active in the market, and to a significant extent.  I remember reading that in 2012, the Chinese accounted for 40% of the worldwide purchases at auction.  It ain’t happenin’ now, folks.  So the owners wishing to unload their art…

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(More) Annals of Apocryphal Art

  Q: Hallo Kobi, I hope you don’t mind me mailing you right out of the blue but I’ve been doing some research and I must say I find your site the most informative, erudite and clear on the subject of Picasso and the Vollard Suite. I am from Ireland but I live in Berlin, Germany and came across an “original hand-signed lithograph” with certificate of authenticity in a reputable antique shop in a very wealthy part of the city. I have not purchased it yet and it is priced at €955.00. It says that it was published by Gerd Hatje in Stuttgart in 1956 and it is entitled ” Bull, horse and reclining woman”.  I appreciate it is not…

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Overdue Diligence

  Art dealers are a prosecuted minority.  So it came as no surprise when recently I fielded a call from a collector new to us, wondering how we distinguish ourselves from other Picasso vendors. This was a timely question–art fraud and related misconduct, though sadly commonplace, have spiked in the headlines rather conspicuously of late.  The Panama Papers are but the latest bombshell to explode.  Most dramatically, perhaps you heard that the Qatari royal family tried to seize a sculpture from Picasso’s daughter Maya Widmaier-Picasso, from her apartment no less (it wasn’t there—it was on view in the Picasso Sculpture exhibit at the MOMA), in a dispute involving an alleged double-sale of the plaster to them and to Gagosian.  Gagosian, who…

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Picasso feels the Bern! 

  In channeling Picasso earlier today–you see, he comes to me at critical moments–the old man wanted to make sure I get the word out.  My Spanish is better than my French, so he usually speaks to me in his mother tongue.  My lack of fluency engenders misunderstanding at times, but today there was nothing lost in translation–his meaning was clear: Picasso has officially endorsed Bernie Sanders! Picasso was of course a capitalist, not to mention the wealthiest artist in history.  He was also a member of the Communist Party, though that should be viewed in its historical context.  As a member of the French intelligentsia back then, there was a clear dichotomy: you were either a fascist or you were a communist. Though he…

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WUZON DA BLOCK?

  STUFF ON A TABLE Let’s just start out with the premise that Picasso was the greatest still life painter of all time, just as of so many other genres.  OK, I won’t argue if you go with van Gogh instead—his are breathtaking, too, and you’re entitled to your own opinion.  Or we might agree that van Gogh was the greatest of his era, and Picasso of his.  But I know there’s some sort of consensus in the making, so no need to belabor the specifics. Nor is it easy to compare a Picasso still life from one of his periods to that of another—the styles are so radically different and so many pieces of each period are truly masterpieces…

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