period productions

The shock of the new. A trauma involving a break in the continuity of existence…

Which Picasso? As great an impresario as he was a painter, Picasso in his lifetime had produced a whole repertory of artists bearing the same name, each one distinct style and period. Never had an artist so commanded his audience through his dazzling changes, or attained such Old Masters’ prices while still living. If Picasso was the greatest single figure in the artistic upheaval of the twentieth century, he was no less a landmark in the changing relationship between the painter and his public. In the long history of art, no master had ever basked in the sunshine of such esteem while yet alive. And probably none except Rembrandt, Michelangelo and da Vinci has been the subject of so many scholarly books and articles. And no painter in his lifetime had been prized in such sheer monetary terms.

---In 1998, Italian conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan hired an actor to put on a Disney-mascot-sized Picasso head and the painter's signature striped shirt and then hang out, jingling a cup of coins, near the MoMA entrance. At the time he said he liked "the contradiction of Picasso begging," but offered little more on the subject. Notorious for his pranks, Cattelan doubtless had an intent that hovered somewhere between homage, critique, and a joke at the art world's expense.--- Read More:

The love affair between Picasso and his public, to say nothing of his market, represented the culmination of a century long process of change in the world of art patronage. Before the French Revolution brought a sudden end to the eighteenth-century, a tight little circle of artists lived in a close relationship with their patrons, usually royal, or at least of the nobility class. There was no question or need of publicity for the artist, scarcely even for a dealer. Most important, there was no problem of public approval. Since the king and his nobility could do no wrong, certainly in terms of social recognition of the arts, they could, if they wished, patronize an unknown, unfashionable artist, even a radical innovator, without any embarrassment or public questioning.

---But my point is that negation, with its implicit wish to exterminate entirely—as Rauschenberg did when he erased a de Kooning drawing (1953)--has been “aesthetically” basic to avant-gardism at least since Picasso’s negation, not to say violation, of the female figure in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907. They menace him, and he takes his revenge on them by disfiguring them--denaturalizing and dehumanizing their bodies and suggesting that they are soulless antagonists, not to say primitive robots. The negative identity is permanently at odds with the world, and negates it every chance it gets. It becomes a mode of “catastrophizing,” as the cognitive psychologist Aaron Beck calls it.--- Read More:

In the eighteenth-century, Frederick the Great of Prussia broke away from the tawdry Hohenzollern taste and the bumpkinish showiness of his countrified nobility to send his emissaries to Paris so that he could become a collector of Watteau, Pater,Lancret and even Voltaire. Later, even the great onsurge of popular leveling following the fall of the Bastille, and the publicity apparatus that went with it, did not immediately engulf all of Europe.

Les Baladins. Picasso Circus Period. 1905. It embodies the mournful mood and classic serenity of this period.

In the less urbane courts there were royal figures who, through the end of the nineteenth century, did not care a fig about pleasing the public or whether the artists they liked and patronized were riding on a tide of high priced public applause: an outstanding example is, of course, King Ludwig II of Bavaria and his backing of the music of Richard Wagner at a time when it was vehemently unpopular.  Of course Watteau had been a recognizable public brand through two hundred or more years of adulation and critical publication; the same machinery that today can inflate and hype the relationship between artist and public, and Picasso was there at the beginning of this brand name media machine and with intelligence and virtuosity could milk it for maximum value. There had never been an artist who could immerse his public in his own forms with such agility; never before had newly invented visual forms passed so quickly from the studio into popular culture.

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