A Steal and a Half

I just have to write this. Amid typically stratospheric prices for good Picassos, someone just walked away with a real steal (that is, if you can call anything denominated in the millions a steal).  Picasso’s great neoclassical/sculptural painting, Baigneur et baigneuses (1920-21) just sold at Sotheby’s London, near its low estimate, for $5.8M. Not only that, but it had been bought in at a pre-auction estimate of $8-12M at Sotheby’s NY in 2004. I failed to see why it didn’t exceed expectations back in 2004, not to mention this time around. To my mind it is one of the nicest and most important oils of its genre still in circulation. If it looks familiar to you but you were not …

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Other Artists, and What We Can Do About Them

And now, for a few words about finding works for you by other artists or, for that matter, works by Picasso that we don’t already own.  I hope this doesn’t come across as condescending and that you’re still smiling by the end, but, listen up, people!  OK, I’ll cop to the charge of paternalism if you wish to invoke it when you find me trying to make sure that you exercise the best possible taste and judgment when acquiring art.  Why do I bother?  It’s risky, after all.  Unsolicited advice may not be welcome, especially if it’s critical. To date, it seems that all of its recipients have been grateful, though some have heedlessly gone on to do exactly what …

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Print Market Review, Summer 2007

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 The season’s highlights include the beautiful, rare and unpublished but smallish aquatint of Françoise (Baer 907, not in Bloch), which sold with all three states for a whopping $588,000.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 …

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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, …


ELBOW GREASE: A slick review of the current Picasso market

  Now that the dust has settled after the fall auction season and the pundits have all weighed in on the current art market, it’s time to look at the recent Picasso sales in greater depth. The season has been marked by a number of notable events, chiefly a Picasso that would have been the highest-priced painting ever sold (La Rêve, 1932), had Steve Wynn not put his elbow through it. It would have been a short-lived triumph anyway, since the sale of a rather homely Pollock shortly thereafter topped it (reportedly) by a million. The prices of these paintings were predictable, in that they just exceeded the previously highest-priced sale, the Lauder Klimt. Clearly, art collecting is a blood …

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Just Paintings on Your Walls

“Are you aware of the wonderful quote attributed to Picasso when, in the 60’s or 70’s there was a sudden diminution of prices at auction of his (and others’) works, he was asked what he thought of the loss of value.  He is alleged to have said (although I don’t recall the exact words) ‘for years people have been collecting my art as an investment, and suddenly all they have are my paintings on their walls.’”  -Jerry  G.

Foot-in-Mouth Disease

Sometimes I just say the wrong thing, and then of course it’s too late to take it back. So to expiate my sins, I guess I have to write about it. It happened two years ago, right after my wife and I, baby in tow, had finished viewing arguably the world’s greatest Picasso collection in private hands. Or at least formerly in private hands, as the famous art dealer, Heinz Berggruen, all but gave it to Germany in return for a lousy $150,000,000 and a rent-free penthouse in his eponymous Berlin museum. Still teetering from his stunning, earth-shattering collection, baby in tow, we stumbled into the bookstore at the ground level. While I’m examining his autobiography, my wife Casey starts …

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A Tough Audience (A Slight Review of the Current Art Market)

This morning I delivered a lecture to the toughest audience I’ve ever encountered: enthusiastic, true, but with a 30 second attention span and constant hand-raising, which when called upon led to shaggy-dog stories with no question at the end. The topic was Picasso, and I found myself wondering how to best reach this know-it-all group of four- and five-year-olds from my daughter’s preschool. We focused primarily on a colorful cubist gouache because it allows many interpretations, and wouldn’t you know it that they came up with quite a number of them. Among the things I told them, they particularly liked the famous Picasso line I had trotted out for the occasion, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, …

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Ceramics Hound

I very much appreciate your website, and blogs. I am interested in how much of your personal interest falls to Picasso’s ceramics, Edition or original, as opposed to his other works. I collect Edition Ceramics, exclusively at this point. -William G.