For the most expensive work of art ever bought at auction, Picasso's "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust" is seriously underwhelming, Blake Gopnik argues, making it painfully obvious that the $106.5 million bid at Christie's Tuesday night was a stunt designed to grab the record. Which is not just crass, she writes in the Washington Post, but depressing—so much cash tied up in something with so little social or cultural value.
The 1932 painting isn't important or influential; "The best words to describe it," she writes, "would be tame, un-Picassoid ones such as 'stylish,' 'charming,' 'handsome.' " By the time he painted it Picasso was "filthy rich and a darling of the cultural establishment, working hard to please." And even a better work would be damaged by being so outrageously overpriced, she adds. "All those dollar signs can drain the energy out of even the most avant-garde of images. They turn a rebellious work of art into a commodity, like a yacht or a Learjet, whose worth comes mostly from how well it signals its owner's purchasing power."