Picasso’s “Les femmes d’Alger” in French, “The women of Algiers” in English, and “Women of Aljeers” [sic] in CNN “English,” is a sublime piece of art. But as heavenly as this painting is, there is more to the price it fetched this month in auction than the power of Picasso at his best (although I still adore the master’s blue period. See “Blue Nude, 1902 by Pablo Picasso” below). It’s what happens when lots of money chases a one-of-a-kind asset, against the backdrop of low to no interest rates …
The Babbling Brooke (BB), aka Brooke Baldwin of CNN, did a frivolous segment on the work of art that commanded “a cool $179 million.” For information, BB turned to Manhattan art dealer Richard Pleitgen, who has been “in the art business for 57 years.”
The transcription, however, appears inexact. I heard live the explanation given by Pleitgen for the painting’s price. He explained that interest rates were such (so low) that unfathomably wealthy individuals needed to park their money some place.
True to type, Babbling Brooke giggled during what I thought was a lesson—Pleitgen’s—on inflation. Here she was doing a “fun” segment on a Picasso masterpiece and her guest was talking low- to no interest rates (as set by the Fed).
Pleitgen was on the money. If anyone can locate the TV segment, please send it along.
[11:45:06] BALDWIN: Could you be interested in owning an incomparable piece of art? I’m certainly a Picasso fan. I don’t know if I could shell out a cool $179 million, though. This painting by the iconic artist sold for a record-breaking amount at an auction here in New York City. Pablo Picasso’s 1955 canvas, “Women of Aljeers,” part of the series. It was snapped up by an anonymous buyer and was the centerpiece of the event. Last time at auction, it sold for a merely $31.9 million, that was in 1997.
Let me bring in Manhattan art dealer, Richard Pleitgen.
Richard, you were telling me you have been in the art business for 57 years. RICHARD PLEITGEN, MANHATTAN ART DEALER: Yes.
BALDWIN: You were there.
BALDWIN: Five people were ultimately, over the phone, fighting over this beautiful art, going up incrementally, going up by a million, starting at $120 million. Take me in the room and tell me what it was like.
PLEITGEN: You sort of get hardened to these numbers.
BALDWIN: Did you blink at that amount of money?
PLEITGEN: I didn’t expect to bring that much, but I didn’t blink at it. I was this also when it sold for $32 million in 1997.
BALDWIN: Who was buying — listen, I studied Spanish, loved Picasso, cubism. The idea of spending that kind of money — who has that kind of money? Are we talking actors, celebrities, investment bankers, Warren Buffetts of the world?
PLEITGEN: Well, you know, frankly, to spend that kind of money, $179 million on a painting — imagine what kind of wealth you’ve got to have. A billion dollars would never do it. You’re not going to spend 17 percent of your wealth on a painting. You’re talking about really vast narns are prepared to spend that kind of money. I don’t even know who would spend $105 million on an important on central park that you’re never going to live in. The kind of money that exists out there is prodigious.
BALDWIN: If you were there when it went for $30 million something in the late ’90s and it’s $179 million today, in 50 years, is what will it be worth? He laughs at me. He laughs. He scoffs. Make a guess. Let’s be crazy. Make a wild guess.
PLEITGEN: I don’t know because, you know, if interest rates rise, so people have an alternate place to put money, some of these prices may drop —
BALDWIN: You could get a sale on a Picasso. I was kidding. I was kidding. OK. We’ll see, so in 50 years, if any of us are around to potentially bid on it.
Richard, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Manhattan art dealer on the Picasso that went for just about $180 million.
Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.
PLEITGEN: You’re welcome.
Again, I believe the transcript is inexact here.