Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My New Picasso

If you’re an average American, at some point you probably had $106.5 million just sitting around – in a bank account, mattress, collateralized debt obligation, or rolled up inside a rusty coffee can. Until last week, I, too, was one of these average Americans (see “coffee can,” previous sentence).

But I’m pleased to announce that instead of possessing 106.5 million dust-collecting dollars, I now own the 1932 Pablo Picasso painting, “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust.” That’s right, friends: I am the anonymous bidder who last week paid a record price for a work of art during a Christie’s auction. Congratulations, me!

If I may stray briefly into Biblical scholarship, it seems appropriate that such a massive purchase took place via Christie’s. Why? Because it was Jesus Christ himself who said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. However, if you happen to have a painting worth, say, $106.5 million, bring it with you and we’ll talk. The Property Committee recently voted to add some ‘zing’ to the Pearly Gates.”

At about five feet by four feet, my new Picasso is big. It’s lovely to look at, too, with pleasing colors and shapes. And it has none of that bitter “old painting” taste when you nibble on a corner – a sign that it’s been well cared for.

“Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” is considered an important work because (a) it was the first to feature Picasso’s French mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter; (b) he painted it in just one day; and (c) it was among the first of Picasso’s late-career paint-by-numbers pieces.

(Picasso denied using paint-by-numbers, but how else could he create a beautiful five-by-four-foot canvas in just one day? He was good, but that good? I think not.)

News of my acquisition surprised many, as only a few close friends know that I’ve been collecting fine art for more than 20 years. (As well as quietly collecting dollars by the million.)

My collection is eclectic: Perhaps two dozen “Velvet Elvis” paintings adorn my study. Several versions of “Dogs Playing Poker” create a humorous tone in my game room. In the pool house hang several original Stallones. And my living room walls feature works by Chagall, Monet, van Gogh, and Warhol – each carefully printed off the Web via high resolution ink-jetification.

Why did I buy this painting? Because art shouldn’t remain hidden in the private collections of the super-rich! Art must be shared with the world!

So, to kick things off, last weekend I took “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” to Manhattan and propped it on a chair at several popular bars and nightspots.

WOMAN (shocked): Is that a Picasso? The one that sold for $106.5 million?

ME (smiling): Why yes, it is. Do you like it? Care to join me for a Tab with lemon?

WOMAN (shaking head): What kind of idiot brings an original Picasso to a bar? Moron.

ME (picking up my Picasso): No Tab for you! Or lemon!

When it’s not out in the world, where will I hang my Picasso? Not sure. But never again will it remain unattended in my foyer and used as a scratching post by my cats – like it was a few nights ago.

In classic do-it-yourself style, I quickly repaired the painting using spackle, duct tape, primer, and a dried-out watercolor paint set. I now call it, “Nude, Green Leaves, Bust, Rorschach Blot, Thin Vertical Stripes and Tab-With-Lemon Stain.”

So, what’s next on my list? Well, before my historic purchase, my personal fortune totaled exactly $106,500,043. That leaves me with just $43. Fortunately, my new Picasso is large enough to serve as the roof of the tin shanty where I’ll soon be living. Just like the average American.

Bill Shein was surprised to learn that Picasso’s full name is, “Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso.” Which explains why he signed his paintings with only his last name.

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