by Dana Lancer
A blue-ribbon research panel of internationally prominent art historians has concluded that Pablo Picasso, the painter credited with almost single-handedly defining 20th-century abstract art, had less artistic talent than the average five-year-old child.
“Not that Picasso was stupid,” explained Prof. Gertrudis Estaín, chair of the fine arts department at Bryn Mawr College and lead researcher of the project. “In fact he was clever enough to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes for over a century. Not bad for a talentless bungler.”
The exhaustive project, conducted in two dozen countries over three years, undertook a systematic, computer-supported analysis of drawings and paintings executed by a random selection of kindergartners then compared the results to a similar analysis of Picasso’s most celebrated works.
“There were a number of surprises,” commented Dr. Jorge Brax of Northeastern University’s art history department, who coordinated the technical aspects of the study. “Some of Picasso’s earliest works stood up rather well in the regressions we ran—almost as good as, say, a junior high-school art student.”
Picasso’s cubist works, however, proved to demonstrate less sense of proportion, color and imagination than pre-school finger painting. Les Demoiselles D’Avignon? Pure crap,” remarked Brax. “The computer didn’t even recognize it as a painting.”
The study was carefully controlled both for bias in the researchers and for cultural variables. “We took random samples of kids’ artwork worldwide, from Guatemala to Singapore, and from every conceivable economic, social and religious background,” said Estaín. “We even included art from blind and developmentally disabled kids. Those were the ones that actually held up best against Picasso’s blue period.”
The group’s report has already caused a stir in the international art community. Dr. Henriette Mattis, director of acquisitions at the Bairn Collection, a prominent Philadelphia-area gallery known for its world-class modernist works, has defended the nearly nine hundred million dollars his museum has spent on thirty-three Picassos. “Sure, I knew my daughter Nicole could do better stuff at age four, but I had to go along with the crowd. We had tens of millions of dollars in potential visitor receipts riding on this. Who knew the bubble would burst so soon?”
Worldwide, curators, auctioneers and collectors have been left scrambling to compensate for the losses resulting from Picasso’s sudden undoing. “All those harlequins,” John Gray, Director of the Chicago Arts Institute, quipped. “In the Dumpster. Tomorrow.”
The producers of National Public Television’s highly rated “Antiques Road Show” were less sanguine. “Now every parent of every damn kid who ever lifted a paint brush is going to write and call, wanting to have their ‘art’ appraised on the air,” said Pavel Gorgan, the show’s executive producer. “It’s going to be hell.”