Art (and Antiques) Can Be An Expensive Mistress
By now nearly everyone in the art and antiques world has heard of the recording-breaking price of $106,500,000.00 paid last week for Pablo Picasso’s “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust.” Painted in 1932, the painting features his mistress Marie-Therese Walter, whom the 45-year old artist reportedly seduced when she was only 17. Picasso was married at the time and had a young son.
Not only was this a record sale for Picasso, it represents the most money paid for any work of art.
Art critics will argue the point for years to come, but three elements cannot be overlooked – and apply to Arts & Crafts antiques as well as fine art.
First, size matters. This canvas was 5’ by 4’. The previous record holder was approximately the same size.
Second, it was fresh to the market. Purchased in 1951 by Los Angeles art patron Francis Brody for $19,000 ($166,000 today), it had remained in the family ever since.
Third, it had no issues with condition.
Speaking of condition, two other Picasso paintings have not fared as well.
A few months ago a visitor at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York tripped and fell into what was believed to be Picasso’s most valuable work of art, The Actor (value approx. $130 million), tearing a six-inch gash in the canvas. It has since been restored.
In 2006, Steve Wynn, the Las Vegas casino mogul, tore Picasso’s Le Rêve with his elbow while showing it off to friends in his office. According to published reports, “the 1932 picture of Picasso’s mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter was about to be sold for a record $139 million. Because of the tear, the sale fell through and the painting’s estimated value fell to $85 million — a drop of $54 million.”
Suddenly I don’t feel so bad about the scratch the movers put in my Stickley library table.