General

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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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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CATCH IT IF YOU CAN!

  This post is ostensibly about the blockbuster Picasso Sculpture show at the MOMA, but first a bit of kvelling.  Our 13-year-old daughter Gina won an international cello competition, first place in her age group, which led to a solo performance at Carnegie Hall. It provided a good excuse for the entire family to take in the Picasso show. Picasso Sculpture runs through Sunday, February 7.  Words are simply not up to the task of doing this sculptor justice.  Thankfully by now enough critics have tried that I don’t need to further extol the exhibit–apart from just adding this word of encouragement: drop everything right now and go there! It was great to see so many of our faves all at once—they never get old—but it…

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Cheapies

Q: I  have very much enjoyed  reading your blog and have learned a lot from you.  I can understand that you are very particular in your tastes and views about what is great Picasso work. I have even emailed you and appreciate your kindness in that you always even reply back.  I consider you one of the leading U.S. art authorities on Picasso. But I think you do not realize that you are a little intimidating, almost like a Picasso snob. I started by collecting Chagall and then began to branch out in my taste.  Your blog helped me to better understand Picasso’s work.  But sadly I’m not rich; my wealthier friends would be shocked at what I’ve spent on art. The only art they ever…

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Sneak Preview of The “Unknown” Masterpiece

“I do hope you’re not driving” “Mkay👀👀🙈” We had been texting back and forth while crossing the Bay Bridge, but the liberal use of emoticons betrayed my young ghostwriter. “Can’t wait to meecha mystery scribe….  Tell your chauffeur that I’m staring at a beauuuuutiful Picasso: nude with crossed legs” Sofie, riding shotgun, glanced at the attachment and pronounced that it was indeed beautiful.  Unwilling to take my eyes off the road to examine my iPhone, I discounted all of these accounts.  Not that I doubted any of their eyes—all three sets are quite keen—but I figured they were all admiring just another nice Picasso.  After all, there are so many.  Little did I know what was awaiting us as we entered the…

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Musée Picasso Paris, Redux

I suppose it’s time to weigh in on the newly reopened Picasso Museum Paris.  Not that it needs it—it truly speaks for itself.  But opinions vary, and it should come as no surprise that the museum has its detractors, despite the fact that it has more Picassos and has more of them on view than any other place on earth.  Weirdly, that doesn’t seem to stop some people.  For example, see the scathing review by Holland Cotter in the NY Times of Oct. 27, 2014 (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/28/arts/design/the-picasso-museum-reopens-in-paris.html?_r=0).  Tell you what—I’ll spare you and just paste one of his choicest rants: “All together, you can learn a tremendous amount about him in the Picasso Museum show, not least that he could be…

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Lessons from the Block

What happens when you mix a rare and desirable blue-chip art collection with a bevy of hungry collectors?  Well, at the special sale of unique Picasso ceramics from Marina Picasso’s collection, held at Sotheby’s London this June, the result, as you may have expected, was an unmitigated feeding frenzy.  Rarely if ever has there been an opportunity for the public to see, much less choose among, such a large collection of the master’s unique ceramics.  According to one of the Sotheby’s auctioneers, this assortment represented the lion’s share of Marina’s remaining unique ceramic collection.  Even without this disclosure, many collectors must have judged that they were unlikely to ever again come across such a large collection of unique Picasso ceramics. Casey and…

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