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Thursday, May 04, 2006

'Dora Maar with Cat'

At the age of eight, as I stood in a lineup of third-graders being "picked for teams" for dodge-ball, I didn't realize that I was participating in one of the elemental human social orderings. We humans seem to like to divide up into two. Thus we get Nikon and Canon, Hertz and Avis, Shiite and Sunni, Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and a host of other "big twos," one usually squared off against the other amongst insiders and aficionados.

And looked at very simplistically, thus it is with the two quintessential modernist abstract painters, too: Picasso and Matisse. And on that level of ordering, I'm definitely a Matisse guy. Always have been, always will be. I know it. It's true.

But even so—allowing, I mean, for this "other team" bias on my part—I still think that "Dora Maar with Cat," which sold at Sotheby's yesterday for $95.2 million, the second-highest price ever paid for a painting, is just one damn sorry-ass butt-ugly Picasso.

Yet another party heard from.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

8 Comments:

Blogger slskenyon said...

I never warmed to Picasso myself, but my interests fall rather much earlier than the late 19th/20th centuries when it comes to art. I think it is a great painting, but it doesn't appeal to me, either. I certainly wouldn't have paid 95 million for it.

8:36 AM  
Blogger eolake said...

I suspect that Picasso's art just offended with such force that the backlash made him famous.
I think Guernica is great. That one is supposed to offend.

11:33 AM  
Anonymous ken tanaka said...

...But don't the cat look good? ;->

Concepts of "good", "bad", or "butt-ugly" are pedestrian terrestrial artifacts that are rendered as ant specs from the stratospheric altitude of such auction values. The buyer, a man described by Carol Vogel of the NYT as, "A man appearing to be in his mid-40's, wearing a blue blazer and a cream-colored shirt..." , may or may not have liked the painting. (In fact, he was probably representing the true buyer.) This is largely a matter of investment management and asset allocation. That is, what is the likelihood that the painting can produce a future return greater than that of, say, commercial real estate. The painting itself will likely remain in a climate controlled vault.

Personally, I enjoy looking at many of Picasso's works, this one included. Much like fine photography many of his paintings and drawings are not self-evident at a glance. They force you to devote a few calories trying to decode them. (Having the benefit of knowing their backgrounds generally helps.)

11:48 AM  
Blogger J said...

I suppose when it comes to cubism I've always been a Picasso guy.

That said, I was wondering why 9.52 million was such a high price. and then I choked. You're right, he's done better.

1:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Art, or anything for that matter, is worth whatever anyone is willing to pay for it.

5:48 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"Art, or anything for that matter, is worth whatever anyone is willing to pay for it."

Except when it's worth a lot more, or a lot less.

--Mike

6:15 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

My (pedestrian) view on art: http://roberts-rants.blogspot.com/2005/08/appreciating-art.html

Robert

9:04 AM  
Blogger Hiding Pup said...

I like the cat. Lose Dora Maar and you've got a great painting. Picasso needed a Photoshop cropping tool.

7:20 PM  

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