01-27-2010_picasso_the_actor

Picture This

Slashing Prices

The art world remains abuzz and aghast at the latest art oopsie incident featuring Pablo Picasso’s 1905 painting The Actor (pictured) and an oncoming art student. When that irresistible force met fragile canvas, the masterpiece lost. Even more stunningly, according to experts, the painting instantly lost half of its $130 million value. The painting (and the student) will be fine, but that pricey moment of imbalance will live on at the bottom line.

The Actor had been schedule to appear in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s upcoming Picasso exhibition. When the incident happened, workers rushed the painting to the Met’s conservation team, as if The Actor was hemorrhaging from the 6-inch tear near the bottom of the canvas. The Actor was already in the conservation area in preparation for the show so it wasn’t a far run to a restorer’s table. (No word on how the art student, embarrassed but unhurt, was treated initially.  I’m picturing her sprawled on the floor, perhaps crawling for an exit during the excitement.) I wonder if anyone yelled “Stat!”

This isn’t the first time a Picasso has met with accidental injury. Casino mogul Steve Wynn accidentally poked a hole through his $139 million Picasso painting The Dream in 2006, claiming that a eye problem tricked him into thinking he was pointing towards the painting when talking with friends rather than through it. That misjudgment nixed the sale Wynn was just on the verge of making. The repaired Dream remains in Wynn’s collection today.

I saw The Dream at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2009 as part of the Cezanne and Beyond exhibition. Like most of the press corps, I got as close as I could to see if I could tell where Wynn’s financial fiasco happened. The repair job, however, was immaculate. Kudos to the restorers! I hope you got a better tip than just free breakfast at the Bellagio.

I expect that The Actor will meet a similar fate and live to see another day of exhibitions, maybe even the upcoming Met show. As for the still-nameless art student who tumbled into art history, however, she may already be looking for another line of work.

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