Picasso’s napkin – the reality
The story of Picasso’s napkin is often quoted by artists (and those selling art) as an example of why famous figures can command fabulous prices for their artwork. With many modern artworks, you occasionally come across someone who says ”my three year old could do that” and the story of Picasso’s napkin is supposed to counter that.
Which it does, to some extent, but that’s not all. To remind you, the story – which may or may not be true – says that Picasso was having a drink in a bar in Paris. I like to think it was a sidewalk cafe and he was enjoying a cafe cognac, but that’s just my imagination kicking in. He was recognized by an admirer who asked the great man if he would do a quick sketch for her on a napkin. Picasso complied, handed over the drawing and asked for a considerable amount of money in exchange.
The lady – the story doesn’t specify but I rather like the idea of a stout, middle aged lady in a big hat - was horrified “but that only took you five minutes” she exclaimed. Picasso leaned over and in a heavily Spanish-accented growl (my imagination again) said “No, dear lady. It took me forty years”.
Okay, we get that. But we all know that’s not what made the napkin valuable. It’s the name. Someone asked me the other day if I was concerned about the rise in the use of smartphones because now everyone is using them to take photographs. And that apps like Instagram mean that anyone can take an ‘arty’ shot. The answer, of course, is no. Canvasses and paint brushes have been available to all for years and ownership (and use) of them doesn’t produce great art in the hands of non-artists. One of my favorite quotes (by me ) is ‘anyone can drive a car but not everyone can win the Indy 500″.
Andy is a ‘name’. It has also taken him (not quite) forty years to perfect his design ability, his eye and his iPhonegraphy skills. It didn’t worry Clyde Butcher that other people could also use a camera, after all. If you doubt that the ‘name’ is important, try this experiment. Place a canvas on the floor of your garage. Splatter paint on it until it looks pretty. Put it into an auction next to a Jackson Pollock.