The British Museum has managed to wheedle the donation of all one-hundred of Picasso’s etchings which make up the Vollard Suite – no, not the name of a room in a curiously themed hotel, but a massive series of prints created in exchange for a couple of paintings, including two by Cézanne and Renoir.
The critics are clambering all over each other to fawn, simper and gush about the prints and to offer their unsolicited opinions about what the lines and shading could possibly mean, squabbling like children over who can kiss the most arse. I agree that the series does reveal the inner workings of the mind of the artist during a transitional period, but only insofar as my absent-minded phone-doodling offers an insight into my thoughts at that particular moment in time. Ok, so a picture of a stick man and a flower might not be quite as impressive as a Minotaur with breasts, but doodles was what they were, no more, no less.
Trading a couple of paintings by known masters for prints by a living artist was a bit of a gamble, but the trick certainly paid off. Well, not for poor old Ambroise Vollard, who died the same year the prints were completed, but a few generations and changes of hand later, and the set is now worth a staggering £900,000. The fools! Picasso’s status as an excellent artist is well-deserved, but just because he is a good artist does not mean that all his art is good art. Once the buzz from this discovery evaporates, I wonder whether they will realise that they’ve been had.
In case the British Museum is interested, I have a few prints for sale, entitled “Tree”, “Swirly Pattern” and “To Do List”. Each one costs £4,500, a bargain at half the price of a Picasso print!
If, contrary to my warning, you want to see these scribblings, the British Museum is holding this exhibition for free until 2 September 2012. If, however, you’d rather see some of Picasso’s real artwork, why not get this Picasso art book, instead.