It is hard to overstate the significance of Spanish artist Pablo Picasso on 20th-century art history and contemporary art today. In all the mediums he turned his hand to – painting, printing, sculpture, ceramics, set design – Picasso pushed the boundaries of artistic expression. He was incredibly prolific and remains one of the most in demand artists on the market today.
Beginning as a teenager at the end of the 19th century, Pablo Picasso created prints in parallel with his other works and paintings. He made prints daily right up until the 1990s, producing over 2000 original prints in his lifetime. The progression of his career can in many ways be charted via changes in his printmaking, making them a great entry point into the wider Picasso market.
We spoke to Toni Clayton, MyArtBroker’s modern art specialist about the market for Pablo Picasso prints, where to buy them, and how to choose your first piece.
A good starting point for any first time buyer is Picasso’s work from the ’60s. In this period Picasso produced hundreds of etchings which perfectly encapsulate the dynamism and variety of his entire career,” says Toni Clayton, MyArtBroker’s Modern Art specialist.
“Some of the most valuable and interesting prints are Picasso’s coloured prints from the ’40s and ’50s, which was in many ways his most experimental phase.”
During this period Picasso moved to the south of France, where access to established printmaking studios and equipment was more limited. He began to work in linocut, a medium he was introduced to by local printmaker Hidalgo Arnéra.
Picasso found a way of creating prints using multiple colours but only a single sheet of linoleum. These prints represent a unique creative process and some of his boldest experiments with colour. As a result these have become some of the most commercially desirable prints today.
“There are also some particularly rare prints within Picasso’s oeuvre,” Toni explains. “The Vollard Suite, a set of 100 etchings produced in the 1930s, contains some of Picasso’s most recognisable motifs: female figures, the minotaur, the bearded sculptor.
"The etchings have since been split up and have since sold for up to £200,000 per print. Whilst some plates from this Suite are not as valuable, together they are worth more than the sum of their parts. Thinking about buying rare prints that form a set is definitely a good investment.”
An original print by Picasso can vary greatly in price, ranging from £8,000 to several million. The market has proven to be a stable one and prints generally increase in value year upon year.
“The price depends upon the condition, provenance, and subject matter.” Toni stresses that, aside from the monetary value, “owning a Picasso work provides an opportunity to become a custodian of an artwork by perhaps the most famous artist in 20th century art history for future generations.”
“Yes, the Picasso market is one of the most stable to invest in. It has proven to be robust through the peaks and troughs of the art market, dipping only twice in the last decade and ultimately improving after the recovery period both times,” says Toni.
“Picasso is one of the top-five selling artists in the west. His works have consistently proven to be worthwhile blue-chip investments, increasing on average 16% in value.”
Given the popularity and value of Picasso artworks, it is no surprise that forgeries sometimes appear on the market. However, Toni recommends that you begin by checking any available provenance and working from there.
“Another good starting point is to look at the size of the sheet and print. It is worth comparing the size of platemark to other examples from the same edition, which can be found in any catalogue raisonné of Picasso prints. If the platemark is absent, this usually means it is a forgery or the print has been carelessly restored."
"Whilst the size of the sheets could differ from print to print, or may have been trimmed retrospectively, it is worth comparing the size of the sheet to other authenticated editions as a notable difference begins to raise suspicions.”
“A second key thing to look out for is a signature. The way Picasso signed his prints changed as his career progressed. It is worth asking for a close up photograph of the signature before you buy a print, to compare it with other prints produced in a similar period.”
Most of the time Picasso signed the plate, so the signature was printed along with the rest of the image. Yet he did also sometimes sign in pencil afterwards. Often prints with a pencil signature are valued more highly, as they are deemed to be closer to the hand of the artist, but are also more easily forged.
“There are other signs that suggest authenticity,” Toni continues. “Picasso did not consistently include edition numbers, so it is worth checking in a catalogue raisonné as to the norm for each series. Other period specific features can help to affirm the authenticity of a print, like the inclusion of a dot at the end of the date in artworks made in the ’40s and ’50s.”
Knowing the condition of any artwork is fundamental before you buy, as it can have a significant bearing on the artwork's value and return on investment.
“Paper is a particularly fragile medium, which makes checking the condition of your artwork all the more important.” Toni advises that you always ask for a detailed condition report before you buy, as the display or storage of the work by previous owners can significantly affect its appearance and value.
“It is important to know what damage can be treated and what is irreversible when buying your artwork. Foxing, brown stains to the paper caused by humid conditions, can generally be treated. Similarly, marks caused by acid mats and glues from previous mountings can be restored, but may leave slight stains. Damage caused by light staining and fading, on the other hand, cannot be reversed.”
It is also important to consider the integrity of the sheet itself. A tear or crease can normally be fixed, but if the print has been cut this is much more difficult to rectify.
Toni concludes that, “when buying any artwork, it is necessary to know what you are looking for and consult with an advisor in order to find something of the top quality.”
After purchasing, taking preventative measures will ensure the longevity of your artwork.
“When buying a Picasso print, the key is to buy from a platform or art expert that understands authenticity, condition, and provenance. Trustworthiness and reliability are essential,” advises Toni.
“They should value your work according to the market and provide you with a full condition report, then advise you accordingly.”
MyArtBroker provides you with a streamlined and personal end-to-end service to help you find the best print for you. With access to a much wider range of sellers than an auction house or gallery, we will support you to find exactly what you are looking for, at a price you are willing to pay for it.
Get in touch if you are interested in starting your collection of Picasso prints.
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