Picasso paintings


Role Reversal?

Lately I’ve come to think that the market and I see things differently.  For example, I would have significantly altered the estimates on the Picasso lots in the recent Sotheby’s New York Imp/Mod Evening Sale.  The giveaway of the night, and in my opinion the best Picasso oil of the season, is the above 1930 Femme.  This surrealist masterpiece was hugely underpriced and should have easily fetched three times the $8M it went for.  At least two people must have had a glimmer of its value, since it nicely exceeded its $3-5M estimate.  But, in my opinion, this painting is one of the very best of Picasso’s “meat eaters”, rivaling even the MOMA’s great La Baigneuse, which you know so […]

Collecting, General

The State of the Art: The Picasso Market as of September, 2010

The Picasso print sale of the millennium just came and went (Sotheby’s London), so one would think it might deserve comment, not least of all because it was such a strong auction.   Yeah, I know that’s a pretty bold statement, given that the millennium isn’t even half over.   OK, so it was at least one of the two sales of the millennium.  Depending on which prints you’re most interested in, you might prefer to nominate the Mourlot estate sale at Christie’s NY in 2003 for that honor.   But the auction last week included Picasso’s two most expensive prints, and quite a number of other great works.  It also set some world’s records, especially for the most valuable pieces.

Collecting, General

He’s Back!

  He’s back!  Four years and one lawsuit later, the angel has descended again.  This portrait is, I’m convinced, the best Blue Period painting not yet in a museum, and one of the best of all.   If I had a cool hundred mil to blow, I would have held my fire when the Marie-Therese was up last month and would have set my sights on him.  She’s not the best Marie-Therese by a long shot, but she was available, and I suppose you gotta love the one you’re with.  Or not. The Portrait de Angel Fernandez de Soto is such a powerful work.  I stood transfixed before it  for quite a while four years ago and regret that I won’t be

Collecting, General

Art as Investment: The Mei Moses® Fine Art Index

I’m often asked about my opinion of art as investment.  My opinion, whatever it is, is presumably clouded by my love for Picasso.  Better to direct such inquiries to the Mei Moses® Fine Art Index  (artasanasset.com), a statistical database and analysis compiled by two NYU economists.  Quite sensibly, they limit their statistics only to auctioned works (so that the facts of the sale are in the public domain and known beyond any doubt) and further limit their stats to those works that have sold at auction more than once.  That is, they compare only the prices achieved at auction for two or more sales of the same artwork.  The advantage is immediately evident: they’re comparing only like commodities.  More than

Collecting, General

Sidewalks of New York

  It’s springtime in New York, and Picassos, like bulbs, are flowering everywhere.  It was truly a pleasure to soak them in at the museums, the auctions, and also at Marlborough Gallery, which had staged an impressive print exhibit, including the masterpieces from the Nelson Blitz and Catherine Woodard collection.   It was also a relief that Giacometti was bloodlessly deposed, after his brief and inexplicable reign. Curiously, I found myself defending the Met’s exhibit, primarily from charges that the show was long on early works but short on the rest.  The NY Times was in the vanguard of this innuendo, but more than one of my friends followed its lead.  It seemed to me to say more about human nature—you



  This lovely Picasso, Femme au chapeau (circa 1955),  is courtesy of a Picasso lover and aspiring collector, who writes, “Just to give you a bit more background from my end, my wife is a sculptor and we obviously have a shared interest in art. I’ve become fascinated by Picasso over the years, and owning a print has been a longstanding ambition. “There’s also a family connection – my father and a friend spent a week with Picasso in the south of France in (I believe) 1955.   As I understand it, the friend (Ernest Asher) knew Picasso – he may have been his dentist. As my father told it, they got on very well; my father (then and later) didn’t

Art Fraud, Collecting, Signatures, The Collecting Instinct


Last week my six-year-old came home from school loaded up with books from the school book fair but nonetheless wanting to Amazon another, How to Read People’s Minds.  Now, among other considerations, I try to evaluate my kids’ “needs” (they always classify their wants as such) through the prism of educational merit.  From that perspective, this request was an easy one to accept.   Much of one’s success in life is supposed to be related to EQ (emotional intelligence), of which understanding other people plays a large part.  (Dubya is supposed to have had it in spades, though, personally, I’d rather have a beer with Barack any day of the week.  And, anyway, if I were imbibing with Dubya, I’d request

Collecting, Technical Matters


There are those collectors who love the art no matter how small, and there are those who won’t look at a piece if it doesn’t reach a certain size.  This “column” is for the former.  Having addressed the merits of collecting small art works before, I would now like to further the discussion by drawing your attention to two highlights of this spring auction season.  They demonstrate both the highs and lows of collecting miniature Picassos.  Well, just the current high, not the real highs—some of those were most recently sold a couple of years ago (see Does Size Matter?). First the low: the 1919 gouache and pencil, Nature morte à la guitare that went for a giveaway 60,000 Euro


The Auction Tango

A collector on whose behalf I am about to bid at auction just posed the following question: how many years back has the art market now retreated? To provide a satisfactory answer, one would have to do a formal statistical analysis, for which I have neither the tools, time, nor inclination.  Shooting from the hip, most people last November were saying 2006, and the market has certainly improved and partially stabilized since then, at least for the time being.  Having just perused representative auction catalogues from years past, I fear that 2005 is closer to the mark on average for Picasso prints.  But, mostly, I find it impossible to generalize in any meaningful way, because Picassos of different media and

General, Recommended Reading

Never Too Late Picasso

Looks like we won’t have a chance to see the blockbuster Gagosian show.  By now I’ve however looked through the catalogue a couple of times and am deeply impressed by the assortment of wonderful paintings he amassed for it. (I’m not so big on late Picasso prints, with a few notable exceptions.)  John Richardson’s essay was of course also quite gratifying, as usual.  This is not at all a criticism, for as Richardson somewhere says, including drawings would have of necessity greatly broadened the scope of the show.  It would, I imagine, have been difficult to assemble a suitably representative cross-section of his late works on paper, since his output in the last few years was both vast and varied.