Apocryphal Picasso Stories

This comic appeared in the Paper Jam Comics Collective Anthology ‘Art and That’.

Part of a number of stories i’ve heard based on artists mythologizing themselves and the risks of commissioning an Artist with a capital A.

I’d heard similar stories at the time about Aphex Twin (who liked to make it known through other people that he was the new Bach), producing alleged remixes that were nothing of the sort… when the other party came to collect he would deliver whatever happened to be lying around in his computer at the time.

So, if you do commission such people you have to be prepared for them being a bit of a dick and basically taking the piss because they can, and you have to be willing that it’s the story of your interaction with them that you’re buying, not so much the product. I’m sure you know this Marketing Person.

Write a story a day, in May.

This version was done on day 13 of Write a Story a Day, in May.

The sun is going down over the garden. We drank beer, and I listened to a story about Picasso. Jack spoke first…

“Knock Knock Knock.

Picasso awoke in his drawstring pants, pushed aside a stack of canvasses and made his way through the house that was his studio at the moment. That he would shortly sell, sketches and all, making enough money to purchase a larger house and once more begin to fill it with drawings, sculptures and canvasses. The next house may have to have a kiln.

Knock Knock.

‘Picasso!’ shouted a voice from outside.

Picasso made his way through the area where yesterday he had been painting with light, a  pile of photographic film waiting to be developed. He stood on a broken flash bulb and swore.

‘We need your designs today Picasso’ shouted the voice.

Knock Knock Knock.

Picasso picked up one of the flashbulbs that was not spent, put it in his pocket and answered the door. The two men who stood there wore loose fitting suits and hats, despite the sun. They looked Picasso up and down, naked above the waist, his pot belly hanging over his drawstring trousers. Unimpressed.

‘We’ve been sent for the Perfume Bottle design Picasso’ said one of the men ‘Our reputation is on the line if you don’t deliver. You are meant to be a genius’

And Picasso slipped his hand into his pocket and took out the flashbulb. He said ‘Here is your design, you needn’t have worried, it has been finished for a long time’ and gave it to the men from the perfume company. It was art because Picasso said it was art. That was how he paid so many of his bills.”

Jay was unconvinced, he said “Are you sure this story was Pablo Picasso? Isn’t it Paloma Picasso who did perfume?”

“That’s the way I heard the story” said Jack “They accepted the flash bulb since their marketing people realized that what they had bought that day was not just a design, but a genuine ready-made artwork and most importantly, a Picasso Story to talk about with the press”.

Jay shrugged.

Dan said “I have a better Picasso Story”

Jack shrugged, and Dan began…

“One day, realising that Picasso was in town, a wealthy collector of his paintings invited him to dinner. All of Picasso’s collectors were wealthy by this time, except for those who owned restaurants and bars, who were occasionally paid in sketches.

Picasso showed up, along with many other notable guests from the town who the Collector wished to impress. They ate and drank well, and the Collector arranged a tour of the large rooms in which he housed his collection.

As the group toured the rooms, the Collector introduced this painting and that painting, and described the circumstances under which he had came by it. Picasso inspected the paintings – ‘pleased with this one’ – ‘ah, this one, not so much’ – ‘but this one, yes this one I remember well, you are lucky to have this one’ at which the Collector was very ecstatic with pride.

On entering the third room, Picasso declared them all to be fakes.

The Collector was crestfallen. Some of the guests were secretly pleased, and some of those kept that secret better than others, there was even an occasional snort: pride comes before a fall.

The Collector protested, but Picasso stood firm.

‘They are very good forgeries, but they are forgeries nonetheless, I am sorry’ said Picasso.

‘But Pablo!’ pleased the Collector ‘You sold this one to me yourself – I saw you finish and sign it. Has some master criminal entered during the night and swapped my entire room for fakes? And This is your signature, no?’

‘Ah yes, I remember. But I am not a saint’ said Picasso ‘having been short of cash from time to time, even I will occasionally fake a Picasso.’