Picasso Gets the Chop !! – artmarketblog.com
Over the years there have been some desperate attempts to make money from an artist’s fame and reputation but a particular incident that occurred way back in 1986 would have to be one of the most appalling. In 1986 an Australian mail order company called Subdivision Art purchased a 1959 Picasso linocut print entitled “Trois Femmes” with the intention of cutting up the print into 500 inch square piece and selling each piece for $135. Each piece would come with a certificate of authenticity and a 30 day money back guarantee should the purchaser not be happy with their very own slice of Picasso. The newspaper ad that they placed read: ”Yes, your own beautiful framed Picasso piece, in the most original and exciting offer in the history of Australian art. And you can own a piece of the work yourself.” Exactly how this company could justify an inch square piece of a print being the most exciting offer in Australian art history is quite baffling indeed.
Subdivision art stood to receive a considerable $67,500 if all the pieces were sold which is a heck of a lot more than the print would have been worth at the time. Had the people involved held onto the whole print as an investment it would probably now be worth more than the $67,500 they stood to receive at the time. Perhaps they could have just sold a share in the print instead of an actual piece.
Apart from the obvious issues with cutting up a valuable work of art there is also the issue of the infringement of the moral rights of the artist. Copyright law prevents derogatory treatment of an artwork which means doing anything in relation to the work which prejudices the creator’s honour or
reputation. Derogatory treatment could include:
• distorting, mutilating or materially altering the work in a way that prejudices the creator’s honour or
• in the case of artistic works, destroying the work or exhibiting it in public in a way that prejudices the
creator’s honour or reputation.
One of the people responsible for this travesty, David Robertson, was quoted at the time as saying, ”If this thing takes off, we may buy other masters as well and give them the chop.” Thankfully it didn’t take off.
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.