We think of Picasso as a modern artist – after all he was alive and kicking on the Cote D’Azur in 1973 while I was sporting shoulder-length hair and a fetching multi-colour tank top ordered from Kay’s catalogue. Being a style icon has always come naturally to me…
What I do find amazing is that Picasso turned 50 as long ago as 1932 and was encouraged to put on a major retrospective of the first 30 years of his career before Hitler even came to power. Thing is, he’d been around a looooong time and it was being suggested by some in the art world that he had reached his sell by date.
Despite the bitchy undertones from his less successful contemporaries, he gave them the finger on 26th February when his 1905 work La Coiffure sold at a Paris auction for 56,000 francs. It may not be the $450 million paid for the Salvator Mundi, but coming so soon after the Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression it was seen as the green shoots of recovery in the world economy.
One of the challenges for any artist is to remain relevant. Which means being a bit of a self-publicist. You may think that Damien Hirst is the master of maintaining media coverage through ever more shocking stunts, but the middle aged Pablo had learned a few tricks in a career that spanned 20 prime ministers from the Marquess of Salisbury to Edward Heath.
The only other artist to rival Picasso’s stature at the time was Henri Matisse, who had exhibited at the same Georges Petit Gallery a year earlier. Of course it is pure coincidence that Picasso’s show would be twice as big as his competitor. He exhibited 225 paintings, seven sculptures and six illustrated books. Picasso delighted in the unexpected, eschewing the usual chronological ordering of works for a crowded, random arrangement that made it impossible to discern his blue period from his neo-classicism or his cubism.
It’s clear that Picasso wanted to avoid being set in historical formaldehyde both by upsetting the art world’s conventions and by displaying more work from the beginning of 1932 than from any other year in his career. Even though the show was deemed a critical failure, 1932 would go on to become a landmark year in his career. The establishment wanted to cast him in the role of elder statesman whose best years were behind him, but Pablo managed to reinvent himself as an ageing enfant terrible on his way to another 40 years of creativity.
Such was the impact of 1932 that the Tate Modern has just finished a special exhibition of over 100 paintings, drawings and sculptures all created in that single, 52 week spurt of creativity. As the man himself once said, ‘I paint the way some people write an autobiography. The paintings, finished or not, are the pages from my diary.’
Despite his long and prolific career, Picasso is now the most in-demand artist in the world. Some complain that with so many exhibitions around the world perhaps we have reached Peak Picasso, but there’s no doubt that some significant investing opportunities are out there. Our own resident art expert Aidan Meller has several Picassos in his gallery at the moment, ranging from £85,000 to £750,000. He may bring one of them to the Royal Academy on Thursday 27th September when we launch the Meller Art Club. See the full details here.
With over 100 new museums under development in the Middle East and China, as well as 10 million freshly minted millionaires on planet earth, demand for fine art will sky rocket in the next decade. This is the time to get involved, learn how the market works and position yourself and your family to benefit from the growing wave of demand. You don’t have to be an expert, you just have to be open minded and willing to learn.
As Elite member turned newbie art investor John Greenshaw will explain on the night.
Until next time.