Unique Picasso Collection Auctioned

photo: cafe le solferino
Not yet, but soon it will be necessary to
find a dry spot in this café.

Meet Dora Maar, Model, Painter, Photographer

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 2. November 1998:- Last week a curtain was briefly parted to reveal a glimpse of the Art World in our midst, a busy world largely unseen in daily life.

Although the Art World had long been aware of the coming of the event, it was only Tuesday that the rest of us were informed, with the headline in Le Parisien, "Ten Years of Passion With Picasso On Auction."

The smaller headline above started, "Art: Dora Maar..." What a name! Wasn't she an secondary character in a Raymond Chandler novel? The 'Dora Maar' who was vaguely rumored to be into something shady in Bay City?

No, it is not that Dora Maar. This is the real one, now dead at 90 in 1997. Before her death, 30 years of obscurity - no wonder that Le Parisien can surprise me with her name.

Surprising me isn't too hard because I know far from everything. If there had been a note in Monday's papers I did not see it because I don't generally get them and their round-up of the weekend's sports scores.

On Tuesday then, I learned that it was too late to see Dora Maar's treasures on display at the Maison de la Chemie, the day before they were to be auctioned off. But not too late to go there on Wednesday to take a look.

You'll see mention of the rain which has been somewhat of aphoto: rue grands augustins constant recently in Paris, throughout this issue. On Wednesday it was no different, and the sky was leaden with it as I left the dry underground of the métro at Solférino in the 7th on the left bank.

The location, in the rue des Grands Augustins, of Picasso's atelier.

With the confusing angle between the boulevard Saint-Germain and the rue de Bellechasse, I had to scout around a bit to find the rue Saint-Dominique. The ministry of defense has a huge establishment in this street, and it has its usual entries with the usual guards in doorways unmarked by any signs to indicate what they are guarding, as usual.

Opposite, the - unknown to me - Sainte-Clothilde basilica, looking high, fine and gothic; but merely a 19th century pastiche of a 14th century style. There is a tiny park in front of it where you can sit in peace and pretend you are in important surroundings.

Parts of the rue Saint-Dominique date to 1355 and it has had its share of names; and lopped-off parts, due to being cut by newer streets. It has a history of big private houses and convents, and it guards this history to itself so there isn't much to see except imposing doorways.

On the site where Lassurance built a grand hôtel for the La Tour d'Auvergne family in 1703, and it went through the usual changing of proprietors and the revolution; becoming the Maison de la Chemie in 1929, which was built as it now is with two wings, in 1934.

If this location is often used for auctions, I am unaware of it. When I arrive the lobby looks like the party is over, but it is upstairs and just about to recommence after lunch.

I get into the main floor of the theatre-like room, not realizing all the seats have been reserved for the world's art mafia for months. Then a small mob comes in after me and I get out, but try to wangle a free catalogue from the ushers - who are trying to push the mob up to the balcony.

I arrive there ahead of them, much more of them now, but let them take the free seats. It is exactly like a small theatre, and the auctioneers, flunkies and officials fill the stage.

The first order of business, once the sound system works, is something about some item either being refused an export license, or being granted one. In an auction like this, the works of a Spanish-bornphoto: auction dora maar painter 'belong' to the French state - or the state has the right of 'first refusal.' Works that cannot leave France are worth less.

The 'Salle de Vente' in the Maison de la Chemie, last Wednesday - in a photo as crummy at the salle's video system.

A flunky holds up a small, framed something, which is video-projected dimly on a screen behind the stage. For the buyers, there is a repro in the catalogue, so they know what it is.

The price starts off at 20,000 francs and pops up to 80 before the hammer falls. If there is action to see, it cannot be seen from the balcony.

Another piece comes and goes. The third item starts at 100,000 francs and zip, zam, boom, goes beyond a half million before being hammered away. The whole bidding process takes about 90 seconds or two minutes, maximum.

Dora Maar was born in the rue d'Assas in 1907 and grew up in Argentina. After returning to France, she studied in different ateliers, becoming a photographer along the way. After photographing in Barcelona in 1932 and London in 1934, she became 'political.'

She was also associated with the surrealists, with Georges Bataille, and the group around André Breton. As an anti-fascist in 1935, she did her surrealist paintings. This was when she met Pablo Picasso. She found him his new atelier in the rue des Grands Augustins.

While Picasso painted 'Guernica,' Dora Maar not only modelled for it but photographed every stage of its development as well. She influenced Picasso's political position and he eventually joined the French Communist Party in October, 1944. A lot of other people probably joined it in that month too.

Maar showed her paintings in two galleries, but Picasso found a new friend, François Gilot. From this point Dora Maar fell into depression, took therapy, reverted to strong Catholicism and more or less retired from life and memory.

Besides two exhibitions of her works in the '50's, her works have only been shown to the public in 1990 and again in 1995. She was not only Picasso's model for the series 'Femmes en Pleurs,' but she was an artist in her own right.

The sales of Dora Maar's Picasso collection, will be followed by two sales of photographs. The first - of other artists, was last Thursday and Dora Maar's own surrealist photographs will be auctioned off on 20. November. I believe there are some 'fonds d'atelier' to go too.

Le Monde's estimate of the sales' total was between 150 andphoto: 1 nov colors 200 million francs, which will largely go to the state. Dora Maar had no close heirs. Even if there were any, everybody else gets a percentage first.

Yesterday's Ile-de-France colors, between frequent showers.

According to Le Parisien, the first evening of sales totalled 150 million francs. I could find no update in the papers at the end of the week.

When I got out of the Maison de la Chemie, it was pouring in sheets in the rue Saint-Dominique and pedestrians were hiding in doorways, with the automatic doors. The guards had disappeared into their warm interior cubbyholes.

News from The Tocqueville Connection:

Although I have not looked at Friday's The Tocqueville Connection,' I have been informed that it has news a features concerning France's nuclear policy and something about 'Danny the Red' returning to French politics. He never entirely left them.

No New URLs - Wait for Next Week

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

count down Eiffel TowerIssue 2.44 - 3. November 1997 - This issue featured the columns - Café Metropole - 'Death in Marly Is Internet's Loss' and 'Au Bistro' had - 'French Truckers About to Resume 1996 Srike.' The issue had one article entitled 'Looking Around for Nalpoléon III, with Thirza Vallois.' There were two 'Posters of the Week.' Ric's Cartoon of the Week said, 'Arthur has a 's' on his sweater because it is Halloween'

The Tour Eiffel Countdown to 31. December 1999:

Only 425 short days left to go.

Regards, Ric
Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
Metropole Midi © 2014
– unless stated otherwise.
logo, metropole sml midi logo No matter how good it tastes,
there is no such thing
as a free lunch.
Waldo Bini