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BOY WITH A TUBE by Pablo Picasso

The most expensive painting in the world?
In 2004, at an Sotheby’s auction, an unknown buyer acquired the work of Pablo Picasso “Boy with a Pipe” (Garson and la Pipe) in 1905 for $ 104.168 million. The starting price of work – 70 million dollars – an unprecedented amount for the art market. The high cost of the work is explained, firstly, by the impeccable provenance of the painting, and secondly, by its uniqueness: Picasso’s early works appear on the market extremely rarely, almost all the pictures of the pink and blue periods are in museum collections.
The Boy with the Pipe was written in 1905, when the artist lived and worked, and very successfully, in Paris. Nevertheless, on Picasso’s “creative calendar” this period is the earliest, pre-subist and, by the way, the most valuable. The canvas belongs to the rare for any master category of iconic paintings: it marked the artist’s transition from the “blue” period to the “pink” period. There are no precedents for auction sales of Picasso’s works of this level and this period (at that time, in particular, the Girl on the Ball was written at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts), and it was the uniqueness of the lot that ensured such a fierce struggle for the picture.
Interestingly, Picasso is considered one of the most “productive” artists: several thousand of his works are involved in the market turnover. But the mass character is mainly provided by his later works, which are much cheaper. Sometimes it seems that the author of the pictures of the “blue” or “pink” periods at the turn of the century, the cubist Picasso and the aging master of twentieth-century art, which he became after the Second World War, are three different people, three different artists.
It has been suggested that the buyer of “The Boy with the Pipe” was a Russian. If so, then the name can only be guessed, but the interest of buyers from our country to the works of Picasso is obvious – for example, on May 3, 2006, a Russian bought Dora Maar with a cat for New York at Sotheby’s for $ 95 million, and if we were not ranking the authors, but the most expensive works, this result would surely take second place in it.
What is known about the “boy with a pipe”?
The work is considered to be to some extent a turning point for Picasso. After a cheerful series of acrobats, dancers and harlequins, he unexpectedly wrote a clean and simple, somewhat sad portrait of a Parisian youth. According to some data, the young man depicted was called “baby Louis”; he was either an actor, or unemployed, often watched the work of the master, and they were bound by friendly relations. In any case, the image of Louis is found in the plots of a number of canvases by Picasso.
Known and the circumstances of the creation of the picture. About a month she remained unfinished, but one evening Picasso unexpectedly left the company of friends, returned to the studio in Montmartre, took out a picture, added it with a pink background (pink wallpaper with bouquets) and crowned the boy’s head with a wreath of roses. An unexpected rush of inspiration from the artist presented the world with another masterpiece.
In the picture, connoisseurs are amazed at the touching mood of melancholy and composition poetry accurately conveyed by the artist, as if returning the viewer to the previous “blue period” of the master’s creative work.
Provenance “The Boy with the Tube” is well traced: the work was exhibited dozens of times at thematic exhibitions (in the New York Museum of Modern Art, Tate Gallery in London, etc.), mentioned in the catalogs; its former owners are known since 1910. In 1950, the Whitney couple acquired a masterpiece of the “pink period”. Much later, they transferred their property to the Greentree Foundation, which is engaged in the protection of human rights, international charitable and educational projects. The management of the fund has just put the Boy with the Pipe up for auction, along with 34 other canvases from the Whitney family collection.

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