Thursday, May 04, 2006

More money than sense?

A detail of "Dora Maar With Cat," a 1941 portrait by Picasso, was sold Wednesday night for $95.2 US million, the second highest price for a painting at auction. The 'woman' was Picasso's finger-stabbing mistress and, yeah, there is a cat on the back of her chair.

I guess people want to own this ugly rubbish because it is so valuable. But it is strange because you could buy a reproduction of this piece with equivalent aesthetic impact for no more than $100 US. Oh you philistine, HC, you forgot about 'authenticity'.

But let's face it - remove the fact that it is a 'valuable' piece and you would not seek to look at it twice.

Comments on an earlier Picasso sale (cited here) are illuminating:

Art critic Robert Hughes spoke at the Royal Academy of Arts about the sale of Picasso’s 'Garçon à la pipe' . It went for $104 million. Mr. Hughes said simply that the sale was “a cultural obscenity.” He went on, “Such gestures do no honor to art. They debase it by making the desire for it pathological.” Some collectors, Hughes commented, “use museums as megaphones for their own sometimes debatable taste.” He expressed concern about the effects of speculation in art: “After 30 years in New York, I have seen a lot of the damage it can do — the sudden puffing of reputations, the throwing of eggs in the air to admire their short grace of flight, the tyranny of fashion.” I seldom agree with much that Hughes says but here I do.


Lucy Tartan said...

I don't think it's ugly at all. I have a lot of pictures of women and cats on the wall of my study, and this one is among them.

100 million is crazy, though.

hc said...

Lucy, Beauty is in the eye etc. I think a curious part of this is the positive feedback loop - valuable things are valued because they are valuable.... I have looked at the portrait and the subject does have intriguing, sinister aspects - the claws - and the black cat making a B-line towards her.

Why do you like this painting?

observa said...

One thing's for sure. If I could paint, I wouldn't be game to paint the missus like that.

Lucy Tartan said...

As I mentioned it's part of a bigger collection, not all of which I chose myself - when people notice you collect things with some sort of theme they tend to present you with additions. I've been looking at it for a good long time and it's grown on me. I don't see Dora's face as distorted and broken up any more, it's hard to explain, the effect is more like her face is mobile and alive. I think the colours and shapes are quite beautiful, too.

The Robert Hughes speech you quoted pretty well sums up how I feel about these over the top auction prices. For a few years now I've been going to the Deutscher-Menzies auction showings and I don't like many things about the whole art/investment scene. On the other hand I certainly don't believe as some people seem to that art should be above such things as money.

Jan said...

the value of artwork is not only in its visual side but also in its philosophical/reflective side. Great ideas and new perspectives can be embedded there. These may stimulate your thinking or encourage you to do things differently or convince you to find a better looking/smarter partner etc…. Picasso’s Cubism for me was similar to these 3D posters that you are supposed to look at for 30 seconds and the third dimension comes alive. Both introduced me to a new rich and beautiful world….