Picasso for Pennies

Bonhams auctioneers have recently announced that they will be selling some ceramics made by Picasso in their October Impressionist and Modern Sale in Knightsbridge. These works, unlike his paintings all have rather reasonable estimates, with some starting at just £500-700. Although at this price the works are not literally selling for a few pennies, when compared to the cool £70 million that Picasso’s “Nude, green leaves and bust” sold for at a Sotheby’s evening sale in 2010, these prices do seem dramatically low.

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That said, many of these are experimental works, and the prices justly reflect the disparity between the current value of paintings and ceramics. The works held at Bonhams are much more playful and simplistic than his paintings, to the extent that some may considered somewhat childish. This sale will be interesting to see how much people will be prepared to pay simply to have a Picasso, and to discover if the value of such an artist will be as important at the lower end of the auction spectrum.

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The majority of these works were designed in the late 1940’s in the South of France by Picasso, where he was said to have inputted in over 3,500 different models. This vast scale, and the ease with which many of them were executed meant that Picasso sold many during his lifetime at low prices, with the idea that everyone should be able to own a Picasso. This ceramic production can be seen as either a clever marketing ploy to strengthen his “brand” or a way to sell himself out, placing money before art. Regardless of his motives, thanks to his clever collaboration with influential ceramicists at the Madoura Pottery workshop, these works at Bonhams are worth a second look, showing an interesting technique and of course demonstrating Picasso’s characteristic playful imagery.

If press coverage is starting already about these works, with the sale in October it will be interesting to see what happens closer to sale day. With such a small sale room at Knightsbridge it seems that perhaps Bonhams are not expecting these ceramics to draw in the big boys, or indeed, that many others.

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