An extraordinary Pablo Picasso auction is about to take place. When Philip Stapleton, an antiques collector from Crawley, West Sussex, bought a painting that was supposedly a Picasso for $290 (£230) at a car boot sale, he knew it didn’t seem likely that it was genuine. But the truth behind the painting ended up taking Stapleton on an art world roller-coaster ride–with the outcome is still not known.
When he spotted the “Picasso” painting at the car boot sale (a market where people sell their goods from the trunks of their cars), he most liked the look of the Art Deco 1930s frame. But he still felt a bit embarrassed by the purchase and it sat on his desk for six months.
When he finally took the painting to be tested at a leading auction house, their report left him stunned: the oil on board study could have indeed come from Picasso’s hand, and if so, it would be worth at least $1 million.
Stapleton told the Daily Mirror: “I still can’t really believe what has happened. I’m like a rabbit caught in the headlights. It’s a very strange feeling. I feel kind of numb.”
The auction team at Brighton and Hove Auction Room said they were “stunned” and declared it a possible “preliminary study,” according to the Telegraph.
Rosie May, art researcher for Brighton and Hove, said in an interview with the Daily Mirror: “Philip’s a regular customer who comes in with bits and pieces for us to sell and he also buys at the auction. He came in one day and said this might be of interest to you. First of all we dismissed as someone had copied a Picasso and put it in a frame. The signature did not sit well with me, the Seated Bather is 1930s and this was an early signature. But it caught our attention.”
There are other skeptics as well. Philip Mould, the art dealer and presenter of the BBC series Fake or Fortune?, said in an interview with The Telegraph: “No one in the serious art market is likely to take it seriously unless it was authenticated by the Picasso family and estate. It’s a titanic task to get the evidence to satisfy them. The road to authenticity with Picasso is paved with rejection. It’s not impossible but to find a piece with all the evidence of a Picasso is a prize of the 20th Century.”
We shall see what takes place with this most unique Pablo Picasso auction.
Nancy Bilyeau, a former staff editor at Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and InStyle, has written a trilogy of historical thrillers for Touchstone Books. Her new book, The Blue, is a spy story set in the 18th-century porcelain world. For more information, go to www.nancybilyeau.com