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garconThis coming Wednesday, it is anticipated that Picasso's Garcon a la pipe will be sold for more than $100 million. At the very least, it seems certain to beat the current world record price of $82.5 million set in 1990 by van Gogh's Portrait of Doctor Gachet. I hope that strikes you as disgusting as it does me. I am glad to know I am not alone.

"I don't think any painting in the world is worth $100-million," said Picasso biographer John Richardson. He suggested the extraordinary projected price for Garçon à la pipe says more about the current makeup of the art market than about the quality of the art itself.

"I think that a lot of very rich people long to have a very fine Picasso, but they don't like Cubist paintings, they don't particularly like the later paintings, which are very sexual or very distorted." The Blue and Rose period paintings are safe and, "sort of scream Picasso from the wall. For a lot of very rich people, this is exactly the kind of painting they would like to have."

The seller is interesting. According to the story in the "Globe":
"The paintings are the property of the Greentree Foundation, a charitable institute dedicated to peace, human rights and international co-operation. It was created in 1982 by the philanthropist Betsey Cushing Whitney upon the death of her husband, John Hay Whitney, who had been the U.S. ambassador to Britain as well as the editor-in-chief and last publisher of The New York Herald Tribune. Mrs. Whitney died in 1998. She willed the paintings, along with the Whitney home in Manhasset, Long Island, to the foundation."
The foundation had assets of $286 million in 2001. They have worked with Nature Conservancy to protect significant refuges in Georgia, and I found their name attached to endless numbers of good works programs and initiatives. So maybe the money won't entirely go to waste. But goddamn it, $100 million for a painting is still obscene.

May 1, 2004 in Art, Picasso, Pablo | Permalink


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