At MoMA, a Picasso Actually Worth Breaking Records For

THE DAILY PIC: A classic Picasso shows up the late one that fetched $180-million.


THE DAILY PIC (#1308): There’s been so much talk about Monday’s $180-million sale of Picasso’s 1955 Women of Algiers, a so-called “masterpiece”, that I thought I’d post instead a Picasso that might come closer to deserving the title: His Violin and Grapes, now at MoMA and painted in 1912, when Picasso was making some of the most radical, important art the West has ever known. Picasso’s Algiers, on the other hand, came when he was probably more behind the times than ever before. There’s no way it could ever deserve the comparison to Les demoiselles d’Avignon and Guernica that Christie’s auctioneers have put forward. (I make that point today on the  Marketplace Morning Report on public radio.)

To justify the absurd hyperbole they deployed to sell their big, late – and minor – picture, the folks at Christie’s had to resort to the clever device of quoting the artist himself: ‘To me there is no past or future in my art …. If a work of art cannot live always in the present it must not be considered at all.” Or, to translate from auction-speak, the actual historical significance of any one Picasso painting is irrelevant, when there’s money to be made off of it.

There’s one upside to the recent sale: When pictures like the Women of Algiers break records, it proves that most of the really great Picasso’s have been safely stowed away in our museums. That forces oligarchs – our own, and those from overseas – to spend, and waste, their unearned surplus cash on colorful baubles that curators aren’t desperate to get, anyway. (©2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)

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