An antidote to coronavirus blues? A Picasso on your wall

LE PECQ, FRANCE (AP) — How’s this as an antidote for coronavirus blues: A genuine painting by Pablo Picasso on your wall.

After an eight-week delay caused by France’s COVID-19 lockdown, the Christie’s auction house in Paris hosted a raffle draw yesterday for Nature Morte, an oil on canvas that Picasso painted in 1921.

Proceeds will help provide villagers in Cameroon, Madagascar and Morocco with water — a basic need more essential than ever now for people to wash and protect themselves against the global pandemic.

Raffle organisers said they have already raised EUR5 million by selling 50,000 tickets online for EUR100 euros each. Their hoped-for sales target was 200,000 tickets, but the coronavirus crisis complicated the task. Buyers have so far come from more than 100 countries, with the bulk sold in France, the United States (US), Switzerland and Italy. The winner of a similar raffle in 2013 was a 25-year-old fire sprinkler worker from Pennsylvania.

“I hope this time it will be won by, maybe, somebody who is living elsewhere, for example South America or the Middle East. Just to diversify. It is good that Picasso has spread all over the world,” said David Nahmad, the billionaire art dealer who supplied the painting for the raffle at what he says is a knock-down price.

Originally, raffle organisers promised to pay EUR1 million for the work which Nahmad said is worth “at least two, three times” that. But he told The Associated Press (AP) in an interview this week that he is now dropping the price to EUR900,000 to support the cause.

“With the pandemic around the world and viruses, everybody must be clean, and to have clean water is so important,” Nahmad said. “I appreciate all the people who have been generous and because of that I am going to give a deduction from my part, on the Picasso, of EUR100,000 to help in this particular difficult moment.”

Organisers decided to pay Nahmad for the painting, rather than push for a free donation, because they hope to encourage other collectors or galleries to also part with Picasso works for future charity raffles. Nahmad, one of the art world’s most influential dealers, said he owns about 300 works by Picasso, the largest collection in private hands.

Raffle organisers Peri Cochin (L) and Arabenne Reille put the painting ‘Nature Morte’ by Picasso in its frame at Christie’s auction house. PHOTO: AP