“When Beauty Strikes”

In case you missed David Brooks’ touching op-ed in the Sunday Times, “When Beauty Strikes”, you may want to dig it up.  He puts the pursuit of beauty in the most noble and endearing terms, and, since you have made the time to read my tripe, I know you’ll appreciate his far more eloquent words.   It’s a short but lovely essay, and anything I could add would just be gilding the lily.  Here’s the link:

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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 (  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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Color Starvation

Question: I am looking for a more colorful piece than the prints you show. Do you have any? -GH Response: There are very few Picasso prints that are both colored and great and none that we presently own.  I wouldn’t need all the fingers of one hand to count the truly great ones.  Almost without exception, Picasso’s greatest prints are black-and-white, as is widely acknowledged.  Only one multicolored print enters most sophisticated collectors’ top 10 list.  And most colors fade, so that today, 50 years or more after their printing, most of the available colored prints have faded to one degree or another.  Add to that the realization that color increases cost dramatically, and one is often led to the

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Color Fixation

What is it with the art market’s color fixation?  Yes, I know, every room needs a bit of color.  But does that justify throwing good money after bad colorful art?  And in a down market, no less.  Take the following small (34.9 x 27.9 cm, 13 ¾ x 11”) watercolor, the 1906 Coupe, cruche et boîte à lait: The Sotheby’s auction catalogue described it as “a seminal expression of the artist’s genius.”  I think it’s more like The Emperor’s New Clothes. Though the auction cataloguer did not allude to this, one could place this still life in the context of Picasso’s explorations in his Cezannian proto-cubist phase. But even if so, it is only of academic interest.  It is not

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Does Size Matter? (Painting Market Review, Summer 2007)

Now that everyone else has opined about the last auction round, having waited my turn, I can now get in the last word. The art world seems rather pleased with itself in view of the continued price escalation, with no end in sight. Yet the intelligence of the market is still underappreciated. It’s time, it seems to me, that buyers be given their due. And of course I’m just talking about buyers of Picassos, since those are the only works I study in depth. Commentary about the intelligence of the art market in general has not been quite so favorable. For example, note the opening line of Souren Melikian’s essay: “The May sales demonstrated how unpredictable buying patterns have become.

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Yesterday Casey and I attended a half-day symposium at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art about its current exhibition, “Picasso’s Greatest Print: The Minotauromachy in All Its States”. The exhibit was small but choice: it included an impression of each of the seven states of this wonderful etching, all but the final state of which are exceedingly rare (there are but two of each in existence) plus one of the two hand-colored proofs of the final state. The collection comes from an anonymous private collection on long-term loan to the Paris Musée Picasso, supplementing the museum’s collection of the other known impression of six of the seven states and of its colored proof. The exhibit was nice of course,



As we know, Picasso was the most prolific artist of all time, and also the artist with by far and away the largest number of styles. But an observation that has not been widely addressed is that he also portrayed a truly vast number of different themes. More often than not, the themes he portrayed tended toward the mundane, and, in so doing it he turned the quotidian into the sublime. It’s amusing to reflect that the most high-brow artist of our times reveled in low-brow scenes. Sure, there was the occasional series of musketeers and nobility. But most subjects tended toward the everyday and everyman. Picasso is definitely by, of, and for the masses. A review of his oeuvre reminds


Mouse Stew

I’ve got a bad habit of going way out on a limb in advising my current and prospective clients what art to buy and what to avoid. It’s a time-consuming process, yet I only occasionally succeed in my efforts to alter anyone’s tastes or collecting proclivities. And lately I’ve begun questioning whether or not I should even bother, given the low likelihood of success and the high likelihood of (unintentionally) offending. The following is a classic example of how such a line of reasoning crashed and burned. It regards a discussion I fell into about a couple of prints a collector had purchased years ago from Picasso’s illustrated book La Tauromaquia (1959, Bloch 950-976). I have a strong distaste for

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Aesthetics: Nature vs. Nurture

Dear Kobi, That was a very windy discussion on the merits of Art, especially the Picasso still life [in reference to the discussion of Le Guéridon (The Pedestal Table) in Chapter 3, “The Customer is Always ________ (Fill in the blank)” and why Doron didn’t get off to it]. There are two schools of thought in art appreciation and analysis. One states that art is created and the creator is the real artist and innovator. We merely analyze and appreciate it to the best of our abilities. The more we know, the greater is our experience; the more brilliant we are, the more original we are, or the greater our intellectual or aesthetic ability is, then the more we appreciate

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The appeal of animal portraiture is probably deeply linked to that of human portraiture. Yet the reasons underlying the appeal of both types of portraiture have received scant attention. The psychological appeal of human portraiture is poorly understood, and has also rarely been tackled by museum exhibits or art history. To understand the emotional appeal of animals in art, we probably ought to know what it is about human portraiture that we find so attractive, even spellbinding? Are we not accosted by 5, 50 or even 500 faces each day of our lives? Why does it matter on a given day if we see several more faces represented on canvas? It would seem that we measure the greatness of a