The Christian Zervos 33-volume catalogue raisonné of Picasso paintings, drawings and sculptures has just been newly reprinted, a collaborative marketing effort between the original publisher, Cahiers d’Art, and Sotheby’s. The set will soon be available for $20,000 (gulp!). In a promotional video distributed by Sotheby’s, Staffan Ahrenberg of Cahiers d’Art states, “It contains over 16,000 images, and it has become the most important reference work on Picasso.”
Well, yes and no. For those antiquarians among us who are still stuck on the original catalogue raisonné, it lends a bit of cache if your Picasso is illustrated in Zervos, though it does not really add value and is by no means necessary to establish authenticity. But Picasso made many more artworks than those in Zervos, with estimates running as high as 50,000. Not counting his approximately 3000 prints editioned on paper and in ceramic, that still leaves many Picassos that escaped Zervos’ attention.
Nonetheless, Sotheby’s Philip Hook proclaims, “The appearance of a new edition of Zervos is incredibly exciting because it gives such a unique insight into how Picasso worked. Picasso’s work is recorded in such detail in these volumes, and there is absolutely no substitute for them.”
Really? What about Alan Wofsy’s Picasso Project? This 23-volume series published over the last few years in San Francisco (the final 3 volumes are expected soon) may not have been unauthorized by the Picasso family and Cahiers d’Art, but it has added over a third more artworks than Zervos. Plus, Wofsy continues to actively update his archives and has already published several 2nd editions. Not to mention that the collection is available for a small fraction of the price of either the original or the reprinted Zervos.
John Richardson also weighed in on the new edition: “We’ve all been waiting desperately for someone to pick up on it. And the fact that there is no color in Zervos, I think, is an enormous asset, because I’d much rather have a very accurate black-and-white image of a painting or a drawing than have some sort of garish reproductions.”
Like every Picasso collector I know, I’d love to see a catalogue raisonné in color. I don’t know about you, but if I were ready to blow 20 grand on a bunch of illustrations of artworks, I’d insist they be in color. Sure, I’d rather the colors be as accurate as possible–the colors in books often diverge from the actual colors significantly. But take a look at any contemporary Sotheby’s catalogue–the colors are pretty darn good….
Red hot! Red hot! Get them before they sell out! And hurry! 25% off for pre-ordering in 2013!