That Picasso - too expensive?

March 28 2011

Image of That Picasso - too expensive?

Picture: Tate

The Guardian's Jonathan Jones isn't sure if the The World's Most Expensive Painting (which I mentioned earlier) is really worth the money. Now that it's on display at Tate Modern, Jones asks: it worth the money?

To my surprise, the answer is no. It comes as a surprise because I love Picasso. If money was just numbers (and in the world of high finance and art sales, perhaps it is just numbers), I would not blink at any price quoted for one of his paintings. But this is not la-la land. It is a troubled world with a troubled economy, and the blame for the problem, all sides agree, has something to do with bubbles, credit gorges, fantasy economics. And yet, ever more impossible prices are being paid for paintings.

For now, this Picasso is all about its price tag, and the display at Tate Modern is poisoned if you know its damned value.

I think I agree. However, I see that Jones has changed his tune since this reductionist rant when it was sold at auction in 2010:

The sale of Picasso's 1932 painting Nude, Green Leaves and Bust for a new world record price of £70m is a tragedy. Unless it turns out that the anonymous purchaser is a public museum – almost certainly not the case – what has happened here is a theft of world culture, art history and beauty from we, the people, by the super-rich. One of the last great surprises of 20th-century art has come and gone, photographed in the sale room on its journey from one private collection to another. If it appears in exhibitions in the future that will be the result of curators fawning to some billionaire for a peep at what, in reality, should be the cultural property of us all.

Jones is evidently a man of good taste, and doubtless has some nice art of his own. But I bet he wouldn't like it if I walked into his living room, nicked a painting off the wall, and said 'this belongs to the people!' 

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