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picasso's suite 347 at the bass

Post #337 • August 3, 2004, 6:40 AM • 3 Comments

I saw the Picasso Suite 347 show at the Bass. My thoughts:

The best ones were the most Steinbergian: playful, wild-eyed, sexy, warped.

I sure hope I'm still kickin' it with the girls when I'm 87.

The hanging was insane. I'm not kidding - they had one of the interior walls hung edge to edge in a 5 x 7 grid with works framed two feet square apiece. Forget salon style - this was sardine style. Somebody boo-boo'd big time regarding the gallery capacity.

All of the prints were signed identically, "Artist Proof" (the French escapes me: preuve d'artiste?) on the lower left, "Picasso" on the right. None are signed on the plate. The edition went for 50 prints with 17 artist proofs. 67 times 347 equals 23,249 prints. I don't doubt that the original work was done by the master, but there's no way he did his own printing, and I think it's weird that not a single one of the 347 prints on display were a part of the original run of 50. I can't help but think that some kind of Dalíesque cashing in on the man's good name happened at the end of his life. I have no proof that such a thing occurred; it just smells a little funny.

The work is uneven, but he was Picasso, after all, and a lot of them are pretty wonderful: erotic circuses, coital takes on Rafael and his mistress under the smiling gaze of a Pope on the potty, satyrs with cubistically exaggerated phalluses, twisty female nudes with their perinea turned up for the viewer's consumption. They are rendered with a sure and mirthful line. The show is overhung out the wazoo and the whole exercise is just slightly suspect, but it's worth a visit to see the master take his fecund energies out for a final run.




August 3, 2004, 5:44 PM

A few weeks ago, Lenny Campello at the DC Art News blog said Picasso's descendants would print from daddy's plates, then sign the works themselves. Their legal surname is Picasso, after all.

(If the link fails to deliver you to a story about Picasso, simply search for "Picasso" when you hit that page.)



August 3, 2004, 6:55 PM

"sardine style" is a good phrase. That is no way to look at art.

Your math is more interesting if you go farther:

23249 x $2500 (recent auction price) = $58,122,500.00.

The man was a walking cash cow.

I did not see the show, but when you say "none were signed on the plate", technically that means that none of the actual metal printing plates were signed. I assume that the prints are signed on the paper in pencil. If not, there is no certainty that these plates were professionally printed and should not be in a museum. As Hovig points out, the Picasso print business seems to be sliding into a swamp of turpitude. Given the numbers I can see why.

These prints belong to an outfit called BANCAJA, which appears to be a consortium of Spanish savings banks which encompass some foundations, makes investments and does good works. It is not possible to tell much else from the sites, which do not work very well. I don't know what their game is, but I would suspect that increasing the value of their property may have occurred to them.

From a couple of web sites:
"Master printer Aldo Crommelynck worked with Picasso for twenty years, first assisting him with his prints in Lacouriere's workshop in Paris in 1949. Crommelynck set up a print workshop in Mougins in 1963 to accommodate Picasso's need for a printer close at hand. He worked closely with Picasso during the artist's final decade, becoming a part of his daily life and his creative process. Crommelynck was responsible for the printing of Picasso's final two print series, Suite 347 and Suite 156, contributing his expertise on intaglio technique... Late in 1968 and 1969 the Galerie Louise Leiris exhibited and published them. The works had no titles when published because, as usual, Picasso had no use for them. The descriptive titles, now generally cited, are here used to help explain the subject..."

I believe his brother, Piero Crommelynck, assisted with the printing of the 347 series. Wouldn't it be nice to have your own personal printers hanging around to generate multiples of your every doodle?



August 3, 2004, 10:58 PM

eBay is awash in supposedly authentic Picasso prints, not to mention supposedly authentic Dali prints. I suppose most people know enough to be extremely wary, but I expect there's a fair amount of bogus material that still sells.



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