Pablo Picasso’s legacy is under slow and steady fire. Over the last decade, a sporadic stream of events have all contributed to this unintentional yet irrevocable tarnishing of Picasso’s mark in the world.
Back in 2006, the casino magnate Steve Wynn delivered a “forty-million dollar elbow” to Le Rêve (The Dream), Picasso’s 1932 portrait of his mistress, Marie Thérèse Walter. Wynn accidently punctured the masterpiece while displaying the painting to a small group of his rather prominent friends, most notably Barbara Walters.
The damage, a tear in the low right quadrant of the piece, was beautifully restored within eight weeks. Nonetheless, although Wynn had intended to sell Rêve for $139 million that same week, but his wife Elaine regarded the incident as a “sign of fate” and Wynn opted to keep the artwork instead.
Fast-forward four years later and three separate scenarios challenge Picasso’s prestige.
On January 9, 2010 the U.S. Attorney’s charged Tatiana Khan with federal fraud for allegedly paying $1,000 for the forgery of a 1902 pastel called La Femme Au Chapeau Bleu (The Woman in the Blue Hat) and then selling it for $2 million.
In addition to wire fraud Khan, owner of California’s Chateau Allegre Gallery, is also charged with false testimony to the FBI and witness tampering. Khan currently faces the possibility of a 45-year maximum sentence if convicted.
Less than a month later, during a class at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, an art enthusiast accidentally stumbled into “The Actor,” a rare Rose Period Picasso valued at $ 130 million. The undisclosed student ruptured the lower right-hand of 105-year-old canvas, creating a six-inch rip extending vertically in an irregular split.
According to the press statement released the following Sunday, officials at the museum believe that since the break did not occur “in the focal point of the composition,” the repair will be “unobtrusive.”
Perhaps the only true silver lining out of this subtle shift in Picasso’s image is Keiron Williamson.
Although only seven years old, Keiron is already likened to Picasso in both skill and popularity, his paintings making their way throughout Europe and the Far East.
In fact, Williamson’s first art exhibit at the Picturecraft Gallery in Holt, Norfolk (London) experienced record-breaking success, selling all sixteen of his paintings within an unprecedented 14 minutes.
Ultimately, Williamson’s accumulated £17,000 (roughly $24,000) in sales, buyers ranging those who attended the gallery to several distant art connoisseurs who phoned in their claims from places as far away as Canada and Japan.
The European medias have reported that collectors were driven to tears by the quality of Kieron’s work, while others calling from abroad competed for access to the gallery’s phone line. Furthermore, several art experts have started discussing the investment potential of owning a Williamson original, sending prices on an even further rise.
In an interview with The Guardian, Adrian Hill, owner of the gallery in charge of the display, managed to sum up Williamson’s appeal among the art world.
“Kieron is now simply one of the most coveted British artists out there. He is red-hot. I believe the last child artist in this bracket was Picasso,” said Hill. “And Kieron is getting better and better and better: the pace at which he learns is quite amazing.”
Ironically, Picasso himself believed the core of his success rested in his ability to illustrate like a child.
While reflecting on his own success, the prominent painter once said, “As a child I drew like Raphael; it took the rest of my life to draw like a child.”
In fact, a chronological portfolio of his work will show a progressively childlike style of art. As of yet, the art world can only speculate as to the many ways in which Williamson’s art might mature.
The pivotal difference between Williamson and Picasso is the fact that Williamson’s work parallels Picasso’s deft manipulation of technique and color.
Well that, and the fact that none of Williamson’s pieces have yet to be damaged.