We Get Calls, even about Picasso’s…
As I have written before, “Who has a better job than an estate liquidator?”
On any given day, who will call, and from what part of the country – referred by whom?
What will they be asking about? It’s different every day. That’s why I am so excited when the phone rings.
Two weeks ago a man called me from a state near California.
He said that he had a Picasso painting, and that he had been referred to my company – Fine Estate Liquidation, Inc. by a friend. After talking with him for 10 -15 minutes, I realized that if he was talking to me about a Picasso painting, that he had already spoken to too many other people. This is known in the antique business, as “Muddying the water.”
I don’t know all the details, or how many dealers and art experts he had spoken with, but what I do know is, he had an art dealer calling him everyday, who was perfectly willing to take the painting on consignment, and then to bring the painting down to L.A. He also had some attorney hounding him to sign some sort of contract…
Folks, Picasso’s don’t grow on trees.
Finding an undiscovered painting by Picasso is surely rare. But stranger things have happened, consider Teri Hortons’s discovery of a Jackson Pollock in a thrift store, or Donald Scheer finding a copy of the Declaration of Independence tucked behind an old ratty painting.
So when someone calls me saying they have a Picasso I listen. I treat their claim with respect, and I begin a process of methodical discovery.
Here are a few of the steps I took:
- The first thing I did was ask the paintings owner to stop contacting “art experts” and dealers all over the country. I explained what “muddying the waters” meant. That if he really did have a genuine Picasso, he was hurting his chances to sell it by contacting too many people.
- I outlined a reasonable and calm approach to authenticate the painting. I talked with him about the distinct probability that we would have to hire an authentication expert at some point.
- I made an internal company plan.
- I discreetly checked with a few colleagues to determine if my plan was sound.
The value of even a cheap Picasso painting is very high.
The owner of this painting is a woman who had inherited it from a friend, the man that I had been communicating with was her husband. I wish I could tell you his name and some of the personal things we talked about, but I can’t. I will say though, that he is a good man, full of hope and dignity.
I did everything someone in my position would do:
- I scoured the internet.
- I checked with a print expert to determine if the image had ever been reproduced.
- I found the one person in the world who could authenticate Picasso’s work.
The above three efforts yielded very little useful information about the painting that this couple had; I knew that I could not contact Picasso’s authenticator, until I had more solid evidence that this painting was genuine. That’s when I started to make plans to go down to the Stanford Library in Palo Alto Ca. you see they have a Catalog Raisonné.
The morning of my trip down to Palo Alto
I did some research trying to find out where in the many Stanford Libraries I could find Picasso’s Catalog Raisonne, and that’s when I got my big surprise. I found a website, put together by Dr. Enrique Mallen, called The Online Picasso Project. And there was the painting I was searching for. The true original is hanging in the Worcester Art Museum, in the state of Massachusetts.
The hardest part of the project was calling my client and informing him that his painting was not an original Picasso. It’s always tough to deliver disappointing news…
My name is Martin Codina and I am an estate liquidator who loves his job.