Picasso Gets the Chop !! – artmarketblog.com

Picasso Gets the Chop !! – artmarketblog.com

Over the years there have been some desperate attempts to make money from an artist’s fame and reputation but a particular incident that occurred way back in 1986 would have to be one of the most appalling. In 1986 an Australian mail order company called Subdivision Art purchased a 1959 Picasso linocut print entitled “Trois Femmes” with the intention of cutting up the print into 500 inch square piece and selling each piece for $135. Each piece would come with a certificate of authenticity and a 30 day money back guarantee should the purchaser not be happy with their very own slice of Picasso. The newspaper ad that they placed read: ”Yes, your own beautiful framed Picasso piece, in the most original and exciting offer in the history of Australian art. And you can own a piece of the work yourself.” Exactly how this company could justify an inch square piece of a print being the most exciting offer in Australian art history is quite baffling indeed.

Subdivision art stood to receive a considerable $67,500 if all the pieces were sold which is a heck of a lot more than the print would have been worth at the time. Had the people involved held onto the whole print as an investment it would probably now be worth more than the $67,500 they stood to receive at the time. Perhaps they could have just sold a share in the print instead of an actual piece.

Apart from the obvious issues with cutting up a valuable work of art there is also the issue of the infringement of the moral rights of the artist. Copyright law prevents derogatory treatment of an artwork which means doing anything in relation to the work which prejudices the creator’s honour or
reputation. Derogatory treatment could include:
• distorting, mutilating or materially altering the work in a way that prejudices the creator’s honour or
reputation; and
• in the case of artistic works, destroying the work or exhibiting it in public in a way that prejudices the
creator’s honour or reputation.

One of the people responsible for this travesty, David Robertson, was quoted at the time as saying, ”If this thing takes off, we may buy other masters as well and give them the chop.” Thankfully it didn’t take off.

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.

7 Responses

  1. Nicholas, an interesting story, and one I’d not heard before. Picasso himself may have appreciated this approach to making money from art. After all the artist was a great self-promoter and salesman. Would Picasso have produced multiple copies of the print? Of course that shouldn’t excuse the destruction of cultural products: I cringe whenever I read of an artist who cuts up books while creating art. The contemporary art world is built on money and profit, or so Andy Warhol would have us believe. As for “copyright law prevents derogatory treatment of an artwork…” I’m not familiar with this legal restriction. What does it mean? Doesn’t the legal owner have the right to dispose of the object in any way he sees fit? Thought-provoking material.


  2. I wonder if lets say someone boug Hockney’s latest paintng, which is already in pieces and sold of individual pieces..what there be the same arguemunt.

  3. Just like to say that in general like your blog/info.
    Wish you all the best.
    Regards, Hugh Thomas

  4. Hi Nick

    Although I think that Piccasso would not have cared one bit what they did with his modern art pics as he thought that most art critics were unappreciative of pure fine art, of which he was well capable of producing and would have produced more if there was a sustainable living to be made from it. So he produced “crap” as he put it as that is what they wanted and it sold! I only liked one modern one of his and that was man with guitar as I am a puzzle and crossword fan.

  5. Technically Australia had no moral rights legislation then of course…and Picasso produced so much guff on paper he might have laughed at the idea. He was crassly commercial well before Warhol!

  6. Hi Tony,

    The moral rights of Australian creators are actually protected under the Copyright Act so there is some protection for artist’s integrity

    Nicholas Forrest

  7. Australia did not have moral rights legislation then. It does now.

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