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' o 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.
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