A Picasso painting has gone for a record breaking $179.4 million at a Christie’s art auction, making it the most expensive painting ever sold. The question is, can oil on canvas, no matter the hand who put it there, ever justify such a sky high price tag?
To most people in this artless age of austerity, the answer would be a resounding “hell no!” But poor people are often considered vulgar philistines by the artistic elite, so quite naturally, your coarse and plebeian opinion doesn’t count.
Yet the opinion of the global president of Christie’s, Jussi Pylkannen, does, and IB Times reports that it came as no surprise to the connoisseur of expensive art that the Picasso painting broke records and exceeded expectations.
“We always knew that it was going to break the world record price, which was achieved here for a triptych by Bacon only last year, at $142m it comes as no surprise that this picture by the genius of 20th century painting, the Mozart of 20th century painting in my mind, Picasso, should sell for $180m. It’s a wonderful, wonderful work.”
How wonderful! Yet, is the Picasso painting really that wonderful it needs to be auctioned for such a wonderful amount of money?
Let’s be brutally honest. The Picasso painting or to give it its proper name, Les Femmes d’ Alger, or in English, the Woman of Algiers (Version O) is, to the naked, and dare we say it, untrained eye, little more than some woman, quite possibly mentally unbalanced, definitely ugly, standing, as if the middle of some high-end breakdown, with her breasts out.
The woman in question is surrounded by a slap dash and often unpleasant assortment of colourful Cubist angles and shapes that at first glance appear to be painted with all the proficiency of an enthusiastic child who’s overdone it on the E numbers before being given unrestricted access to the art room’s best paints by his over-indulgent teachers.
In short, the Woman of Algiers would at best make a colorful and eye-catching rug for your toilet, but as for something you want to hang on your wall, let alone pay more than a few dollars for, it’s a definite no no.
Unless of course you’re one of those cultivated types that believe art appreciation equates to money spent. It doesn’t. Vincent van Gogh died penniless, but his paintings have made a lot of people a lot of money in the name of what? Art? Or people telling other people what they should appreciate in the name of culture and how much money they should spend on it?
Tellingly, the buyer of Picasso’s vibrant cubist work was not identified, perhaps he was ashamed of his purchase?
Perhaps Picasso himself once said it best when he lamented, “The world today doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do.”
Amen to that Pablo.
[Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images]