When at an auction recently I came across one of the 'White Clown' prints, but did not bid – it sold for $350, which is $50 over starting bid and it only got two bids. When driving from the auction, I used my blackberry to look up prices of Picasso aquatints. This made me nervous - they were going for $20,000 and up. As I wondered if I had done the right thing, or missed an amazing opportunity I spent some time on investigating the print using publicly available resources...
Disclaimer: I am not an art expert, nor an art appraiser or an art authenticator - I am just a person that happened to be in an auction, and wanted to find out if I missed out on down payment on a a small house...
Thrift store auction offered a ... Picasso?
The first relevant piece of information I found was a an article in a news paper about a woman that had bought a print for $925 in a thrift shop auction. It was a similar print (i.e. in same series), but yet no information on its authenticity:
Askart.com Discussion suggests prints are old
I then found a couple of posts on askart.com; people claiming that they had these prints for long time and had some theories of how and when they had been created. One story that seems to come up here and there is that these prints were made in a long series, and the colouring on these prints were actually made by Picasso, by hand, at a gallery opening, in order to make money. It is claimed that this would explain why they were made on cheap brown paper and each print has different application of colour...
Expert Opinion - Small Pierrot
However, I started growing slightly sceptical as no-one seemed to have a certain knowledge of the prints' origin, even thought there were a few of them out there. However, an art appraiser said she thought the prints were real and that a pencil signed copy might be worth, or at least selling for, $16,000. To the person that asks the question she states: "You have a Picasso lithograph that I have seen referred to as "Small Pierrot". That she was so sure of her assessment and did not ask for any additional information made me doubt the appraisal though.
This expert doubted the authenticity of a similar print, based on paper quality and other factors.
Follow-Up to the posting above, where a private person re-iterates the story regarding that these were made for a gallery opening in Zurich, and mentions a possible price of $20,000
On eBay at $400
I then came across the following site, where I was revealed to find a print for sale for $400. So I once again thought that I had not missed out on much...
The owner of the site do all transactions via eBay (here) and has listed the print per the following at $400, seller stating 'unknown' when categorizing if original or reproduction, and auction has no end date as it is a fixed price "buy it now" listing:
On eBay at $850
Listed by niceon101 as original print (as opposed to reproduction). Auction ending on April 8th.
Titled "Fencer" at liveauctioneer.com
I then stumbled across these records of prints that had been sold, offered for sale or were currently for sale. With these high number of prints in recent circulation, it seemed more and more likely that they are fake. And another give-away are the 'art-work' descriptions on these pages, they state 'Pablo Picasso [after] (Spanish, 1881 - 1973)' and I assume this 'after' means that the prints were inspired by Picasso, or something similar, rather than originals.... Maybe a way of protecting against law suites?
December 2008, Starting $2,000, sold for $2,500
Feb 2009, Starting $1,200, not sold
April 2009, Starting $1,200, not sold
September 2008, Starting $2000, sold for $2,000 http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/5671638
The descriptions of the prints by both Martin Gordon and Ashe Auctioneers are exatly the same - are theses two different fronts for the same person / company?
Art Authenticator weighs in
Finally I came across this Art authenticator that specialize in Picasso. They have a version of the print showing on their pages. It is an example of an investigation that they have done - they concluded that their print was a fake:
"Is this a Picasso or
or a Picassio or
just a Picaso?
Frankly, it doesn't really matter how you spell it
because it's a still a fake!
Picasso didn't do silk screens!"
This is also interesting reading:
Freeman Art offer an initial authentication assesment, and the starting price point is $185. I believe the initial assesment can be done based on a digital image, i.e. it can be confirmed if a piece is illigimate based on a photo, but not that it is authentic.
Verdict - Fake or authentic?
The evidence is piling up to suggest that there are alot of fakes out there, and I would assume that any of these prints that I come across in the future are fakes, until proven authentic by a thorough assesment.
So rather than missing out on a good deal, it seems as if I saved $400 by not bidding...
In my mind one question still remains, is there an original Picasso art work with this motive, executed using any technique - be it a painting, print, or other?
What do you think?
Are there any 'originals' of this print, i.e. was it a painting that Picasso ever did using any technique?
Do you know any details about the story that Picasso made these prints in conjunction with a gallery opening?
Do you own a print?
How did you come to own it? When was it?
Post your comments today!