Alongside with current tendency of increasing demand on bankable works, from the last auction results and records it seems that Picasso is one of the hottest artist, driving the art market these days. As last important results we could just mention the famous Marie-Therese portrait, femme au Beret et a la Robe Quadrillee ” ( 1937) sold at Sotheby’s at over estimated ₤37 million last 28th February, or the remarkable Phillip’s La Dormeuse sold for 41.9 million pounds, or about $58.1 million.
However, it’s not like the Spanish master was ever out of favor, and never has been also during his lifetime thank to a strategic personal promotion started by himself. But now there’s a growing appetite for Picasso pieces, and so prices continue to rise up.
Now Christie’s has announced another big ticket Picasso for the May sales. With the Rockefeller’s rose-period portrait of a young girl looking to make an easy nine figures, the auction house turns to a self portrait of the artist painted during World War 2. Estimated at $70m, Christie’s is making much of the fact that the painting was owned by Victor and Sally Ganz, who, over their lifetime together, assembled what is still one of the most celebrated collections of the 20th Century.
“All in all, he was the best collector we had…” remarked Leo Castelli, “For anyone who wants to know this period, they must look at Victor and apply his lessons.”
Of all the artists that they collected, the Ganzes were most committed to Picasso. Victor Ganz bought numerous works by the painter and only stopped buying when they became too expensive. Ganz bought the whole Femmes d’Algiersseries of 15 works and sold off half of them to own the ones he really wanted. The Version O from that series later became the most expensive Picasso three years ago when Christie’s sold it for $179m.
Now at next May auction will see this there Picasso masterpiece, Le Marin, which if sold above the $70m asking price, will revised upwards other Picassos (and Ganz Picassos).
Le Marin last appeared at auction in 1997, as part of the legendary sale of the Collection of Victor and Sally Ganz.
Prominently hung in their Manhattan living room, Le Marin was purchased by Victor Ganz for $11,000 in 1952 from the publisher Harry Abrams, and it was Picasso’s only male image in the Ganz Collection, and probably a portrait.
According to his own testimony, Picasso’s earlier 1938 portrait of Maya in a sailor suit (gifted after the artist’s death to thev Museum of Modern Art, New York) is also a self-portrait. This painting, like the present picture, was originally titled Le Marin. Jerome Seckler, who interviewed Picasso, recounted their discussion of that portrait:vI described my interpretation of his painting, Le Marin, which I had seen at the Liberation Salon. I said I thought it to be a self-portrait… He listened intently and finally said, “Yes, it’s me, but I did not mean it to have any political significance at all.”I asked why he painted himself as a sailor. “Because,” he answered, “I always wear a sailor shirt. See?” He opened up his shirt and pulled his underwear–it was white with blue stripes!
The oil painting Le Marin depicts a sad-looking man dressed in a blue and white striped sailor’s shirt sitting on a chair.Created only weeks after the most dangerous crisis Picasso faced in World War II, Le Marin reflects the artist’s emotional and psychological distress.
In 1944 Picasso said, “I have no doubt that the war is in the paintings I have done.” Perhaps no painting which he made during the Occupation more directly conveys this feeling than Le Marin.
“You have… a slightly dark sense around the picture. It’s nervous, it’s on edge and slightly gloomy,” said Conor Jordan, deputy chairman of impressionist and modern art at Christie’s.
In fact, at the outbreak of the war Picasso elected to stay in France, despite offers to move to Mexico and the United States,saying that “Most certainly, it is not a time for a creative man to fail, to shrink or to stop working”. This decision to stay in France required a great deal of courage, as the painter of Guernica he was an internationally recognized anti-fascist and in a speech, Hitler had denounced him by name.
German agents regularly visited his studio in search of incriminating evidence, during which they insulted him and destroyed his paintings.It was previously thought that these threats never rose above the level of harassment. However, a letter found in the Archive Picasso, dated September 16, 1943 – just five weeks before he painted Le Marin – demonstrated that the Nazis planned to deport Picasso to a concentration camp.
Picasso was saved only by the intervention of friends, Dubois and Cocteau, and especially by Arno Breker, Hitler’s favorite sculptor, who spoke to Hitler on the artist’s behalf. Other people in Picasso’s circle were not so lucky, as for instance Max Jacob, who had been one of Picasso’s closest friends, was deported to a concentration camp in the spring of 1944 and died there.
The Picasso self-portrait, ‘Le Marin’, will be on view in Hong Kong until 3 April. It will go under the hammer in New York on 15 May as part of a sale of Impressionist and Modern Art by Christie’s. Estimated $70 million, this very masterpiece and important testimony from the WWII it’s very likely to realize one of the five highest prices for the artist at auction.