So, You’d Love to Own a Picasso (Who Wouldn’t?)

There is an old adage that says there is only one thing that separates me from financial independence—money. The same might be said for ownership of a Picasso, however, that wouldn’t be nearly as true because it is possible to own a genuine Picasso for very reasonable costs. Not like one of the discount Rolex watches that is far too good to be true (and isn’t) but genuine Picasso. Imagine having you, your family and all your guests enjoy a Picasso on the walls of your home or office.

News reports always highlight enormous sales of art that require eye-popping expenditures of cash. When a Picasso sells for $179,000,000, it makes news around the world in every country. In 2015, Les femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’) (1955) did sell for that amount, and it did make news everywhere. A few years before, La Réve (1932) sold for $155,000,000 and a few years before that, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust (1932) sold for more than $106,000,000.

Les femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’) (1955), Pablo. Picasso

Les femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’) (1955)

La Rêve (1932), Pablo Picasso

. La Rêve (1932)

Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, (1932), Pablo Picasso

Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, (1932)

Certainly, it is true that top Picasso oil paintings are out of reach for all but über-wealthy individuals and even institutions and corporations. Even far lesser-important oils are out of reach for the vast majority. And yet virtually everyone can own a genuine Picasso masterpiece.

How? Picasso was the pre-eminent artist of the 20th century, who worked in a variety of mediums—not just oil painting. Among others, he also worked with sculpture, ceramics, mixed-media, drawing—and print-making. He became the greatest printmaker since Rembrandt—and because Rembrandt never printed in color, the greatest color printmaker in history.

Yet another area where Picasso set a new standard was in the area of Original Fine Art Prints, which have become highly collectible as another artistic medium. These are limited editions called “multiple originals” that have been executed by Picasso himself.

Picasso in his studio
Picador and Bull, Pablo Picasso

Picasso in his studio, as he completes the linocut, Picador and Bull, in 1959—which was printed in a limited edition of 50.

It is also true that the most sought-after Picasso prints consistently sell for millions of dollars. For example, La Femme qui Pleure I (1937), a drypoint, aquatint etching and scraper piece, sells in the 4 to 5 million-dollar range. But there are many very good Picassos that are available to millions of established or new collectors that have not yet risen to unaffordable levels, like Avant la Pique I (1959), from the estate of Jacqueline Picasso.

Avant la Pique I (1959)

Avant la Pique I (1959)

LaFemme qui Pleure I (1937)

La Femme qui Pleure I (1937)

man on a horse. not posted

Picador entrant dans l’Arèna (1959),
also from the estate of Jacqueline Picasso

Portrait de Jacqueline au Fauteuil (1958)

Portrait de Jacqueline au Fauteuil (1958)

A Los Toros- Le Picador II (1961)

A Los Toros: Le Picador II (1961)

Le Départ (1951)

Le Départ (1951)

Hommage à René Char (1969)

Hommage à René Char (1969)

How does one go about acquiring one of these works of art? There are some classic, fundamental rules that have stood the test of time:

  • Pay minimum prices for maximum quality.
  • Acquire works in the top 20% of the artist’s output whenever possible. Critics, scholars, museum curators, high-level dealers and very knowledgeable collectors provide insight and direction that can be tapped into for guidance.
  • Acquire these top works prior to price appreciation that is caused by increased worldwide demand. There will never be more Picassos produced, so when demand increases, available supply decreases and subsequently prices must increase. The simple rule of supply and demand.
  • Buy from reputable sources. There are far too many people who sell reproductions and damaged merchandise. Top dealers are top dealers because they do all the research and due diligence on behalf of their clientele.With the ever-growing fascination with Picasso, the question today is how many of his prints will still be available in 10 or 20 years from now. Just imagine the thrill of owning a work produced by the hand of Picasso himself. It doesn’t only have to only be a dream!

Richard P. van Pelt, Ph.D.  •  February  17, 2020