The Art Treasure We Ignore


It doesn’t take a genius to recognize the value of a signed limited edition print if the signature on that print is Picasso. Even if you don’t particularly like his work; are turned off by both eyes being on the same side of a woman’s face, you understand that the art world, in general, holds his reputation and his unusual work in very high regard. With this in mind, what would you be willing to pay for a print bearing Pablo Picasso’s actual signature?

There is a story told in the movie, The Paper about Picasso. The editor, played by Robert Duvall is negotiating with his assistant editor over salary. He tells her about a time when he and some other young journalists were in Europe covering a major news event. They decided to go have drinks and dinner at a local posh restaurant to celebrate the successful end of their assignment. They stayed much longer than intended as more and more colleagues joined them and the “dinner and drinks” grew into a full-blown party. By the time it finally broke up, they had run up a staggering bar tab, nearly nine thousand dollars worth! They were frantic, trying to figure a way to cover the tab and their commotion not only drew the attention of the maitre D’, but also that of the other patrons in the restaurant, including an odd-looking little old man at the next table. Just as the situation was about to escalate to more embarrassing proportions, this little old man coaxed their waiter over, scribbled some marks on a cocktail napkin, signed it and handed it to him. The waiter smiled, bowed, then ceremoniously tore up the journalists’ hefty bar tab. That little old man was Pablo Picasso.


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It’s a good story, no doubt. But what makes it work, have meaning, is the fact that it was Pablo Picasso scribbling on that napkin and not Joe Schmoe, a plumbing contractor in boo furniture san diego from Peoria. The treasure in that napkin bearing a few hasty scrawls by the noted abstract artist was apparent and unlikely to be ignored even by a waiter in Madrid.

But what if a treasure is not so apparent? Would the art created on that napkin have stood alone without the famous signature? I say probably not. Then was it the apparent worth of the celebrity autograph that paid the tab and not the scribbled abstraction? Again, I say probably not. You have to have both. The art and the artist are inseparable.

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Although it is unlikely that most of us will ever be able to own an authentic Pablo Picasso painting, print or cocktail napkin, we are ignoring a treasure of fine original art every day! Never before in history has there been such an opportunity to experience so much artistic talent! You need only to turn on your computer and tap a few keys. Yes, you’ll find Picasso there along with Van Gogh, Matisse, Renoir and all the others. You may even find Joe Schmoe from Peoria; I understand he likes to draw in his spare time and display his work on his website. And I understand that he offers signed original prints at a very reasonable price. Perhaps you should buy one from him before he is “discovered” by some of the more discriminating waiters in Madrid. Who knows, he might be the next Picasso.

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