Picasso was rich during his lifetime

Culture : How Pablo Became Picasso The Rise of the Most Famous Artist

Let's pretend that art is an ordinary commodity. Let's not look at artists, art and the art market through the eyes of high culture. Let's look at it from the perspective of an ambitious entrepreneur who wants to establish a global brand with the possibilities of existing production facilities and skills - but without a marketing budget. And already we are at Pablo Picasso, who started doing this almost exactly 100 years ago.

Marketing is now taught at hundreds of universities, and Picasso was a foreign word to marketing. But that didn't matter. The marketing genius Picasso intuitively did everything that has to be done according to the marketing apprenticeship in order to be successful. He did not think of their categories, but acted in them. How much is shown by a review in 20 short chapters - headed in the specialist vocabulary of the marketing experts.

Market Analysis. In the second half of the 19th century, photography gave the impetus for a new dawn in art. In painting and sculpture, the lifelike reproduction loses its technical charm, the search for new possibilities of expression becomes the real drive of artistic creation. Artists like Manet, Pissarro, Monet, Degas, Renoir and Sisley were the first to dare to break with academic tradition and, with their impressionistic painting style, became pioneers of modernism. They initiate a revolution in vision, but also in artistic self-image. Their market share is vanishingly small at the turn of the century, but favorable prospects are already beginning to emerge.

A group of financially strong collectors who are willing to invest in new art is emerging in major European cities. Most of them belong to a self-confident upper class, which gains social influence and power with advancing industrialization and breaks up the conservative buyers' market consisting of the nobility, state and church. The demand for high-level works is growing faster than the supply. This has an impact on the production and distribution of art. Commissioned production and direct sales by the artists are slowly transitioning into autonomous artistic production and its sales mediation through an art trade that is becoming more professional.

Product Development. Picasso goes through the school of tradition according to the motto: “You have to know the old in order to do the new well.” Even the beginnings of the artist, who was born in Malaga in 1881, are very promising. His father, painter and drawing teacher at the School of Applied Arts in Málaga, taught him the conventional techniques of his profession at an early age. Pablo completed his first painting at the age of eight. At the age of 14 he came to the Barcelona Art Academy, skipped several classes, exhibited his first works, won prizes, and moved into his first studio in Barcelona in 1899. He initially earned his living as an illustrator for magazines.

Picasso's Spanish years are a time of orientation. Like his father, he can become a teacher. Or have a good living as an academic painter. Or specialize in sculpture, which is considered the queen of the arts in Spain. His decision to make a name for himself as a freelance painter has been carefully considered. "The pastures of the academy have been grazed," he says to his childhood friend Manuel Pallarés, "the bull only grows strong on new pastures". They are particularly evident in painting. The impressionists gave the signal for further discoveries. With his painting, Picasso wants to belong to the vanguard of the trek, to the avant-garde. His early work shows how brilliant his prerequisites for a foray into uncharted territory are. Picasso painted the portrait “Barefoot Girl” (1895) at the age of 14 after a living model. In the painting “The First Communion” (1896), created a year later, the refinement of its composition is astonishing. The allegorical painting “Science and Charity” (1897) shows that the only 16-year-old artist has already mastered the academic style.

Benchmarking. Picasso no longer has to measure himself against the works of the traditionalists. It is the masters of early modernism that he feels challenged by. In a kind of artistic role-play, he tests different styles, orienting himself on the works of Camille Pissarro, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Edvard Munch, Edgar Degas and Paul Cézanne. But the more perfectly he imitates them, the more a realization matures in him: with “me-too products” you don't become a brand.

Brand Name Development. The history of his signature shows how consciously Picasso prepared his market presence. In 1894 Picasso, just 13 years old, was still completely under the artistic influence of his father José Ruiz Blasco and signed his pictures and letters with his family name: “P. Ruiz ”. When he completed “First Communion” in 1896, the young artist expanded and added the family name of his mother Maria Picasso y Lopez to his previous signature: “P. Ruiz Picasso ”. He underlines the signature and puts it in parenthesis with two lines, as if to say: This is not yet my real art. Around 1900 Picasso finally broke away artistically from his father. In Barcelona he becomes the leader of a young artist group and confidently signs: “P. R. Picasso ". In October 1900 he set out for Paris for the first time.

In Paris, Picasso measured himself against the other competitors in the modern market and recognized the outstanding quality of his products. In 1901 he positions himself: by deleting the initials and only signing them with "-Picasso-", he condenses his name into a term. In 1902 Picasso became Picasso. With the paintings of his “Blue Period” he surprised the market for the first time with his own, unmistakable style. From now on he signs without parenthesis lines and thus demonstrates that he is identical to his product.

Network Marketing. During his first years in Paris, Picasso lived in abject poverty. His capital is the talent to make the right friendships. He creates an effective network for himself by making collectors, art dealers, gallery owners, colleagues and critics his allies. In return for their loyalty, he portrays them.

Product innovation. By consistently practicing product differentiation, Picasso succeeded in an epoch-making innovation in 1907: With the painting "Les Demoiselles d’Avignon" he created a revolutionary work of art. He appropriates foreign and already established product ideas with confidence. When he was working on “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”, he was formally inspired by sculptures from primitive Iberian and African art; he takes over the composition of the picture from the Cézanne series of works "Bathers". But the result is a real Picasso. Marketing specialists will formulate this approach decades later in the so-called MAYA formula: most advanced, yet acceptable. "Les Demoiselles d’Avignon" become the program image of a new design language. The picture breaks with all the rules that have been binding since the Renaissance. The figures are made up of geometric surfaces, the central perspective and the illusion of spatial depth have been given up, the color no longer has any mood value.

Category positioning. The revolutionary painting is still denounced by almost all critics and colleagues as an artistic error. But Picasso is not deterred. He knows that he has created an innovation with which he can decisively shape the future of the market. In order to become the market and opinion leader in this product area, he began in 1907 to exploit the potential of the new style and to shape it into an independent category. He transfers the new style to all important painting genres: landscape, nude, still life and portrait.

Distribution Strategy. Picasso knows that the “Demoiselles d’Avignon” style will open up a new dimension in art. At the same time, he is aware that he cannot push through the innovation on his own. His solution to the problem is an entrepreneurial masterpiece.

Phase 1: Picasso looks for an ally. He opts for the painter Georges Braque (1882-1963), who - without knowing about Picasso's product innovation - made similar stylistic discoveries at the same time. From 1908 Picasso and Braque met regularly, discussed their results and learned from each other.

Phase 2: In order to optimize their market presence, Picasso and Braque decide on a common distribution channel. Both sign an exclusive contract with the young dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, who is not yet involved in the network of interests of the market. Picasso knew the German as early as 1907 and came to appreciate him in the course of a close business relationship.

Phase 3: The two painters agree with their dealer that the avant-garde works will initially only be exhibited abroad. The coup succeeds: While their names are still notorious in Paris, Picasso and Braque quickly become famous in European and American art metropolises.

Phase 4: In order to be able to establish itself on the market, the stylistic innovation needs a name. One critic writes of "cubist elements". Picasso's allies are making the new term public: Cubism.

Pricing Strategy. Kahnweiler, who will soon also represent other Cubists, considers Picasso to be the greatest talent among the competitors. As a dealer, he defines the value of the work in terms of the purchase price. Right from the start he set a price four times higher for Picasso paintings than for comparable Braque formats. In doing so, he positions the Spaniard at the forefront of the avant-garde.

Since Picasso and Kahnweiler know that they cannot initially achieve reasonable prices with Cubist images, they decide to rigorously reduce the supply. Kahnweiler sells works - if at all - only to renowned collectors who do not see the work as an object of speculation. Picasso also keeps a large part of the works under lock and key for the time being. This strategy is gradually driving up prices, and Cubist art has a lucrative reputation for exclusivity.

Line extension. Picasso has conquered the top position in modern times with his paintings. He consistently uses this reputation to open up new product areas. His sculptures, his stage sets and his ceramics are just as unmistakably “Picasso” as his works on paper. Every new product area that he brings to market benefits from the success of the already established ones and immediately reaches their price level.

Change management. Picasso's success is also due to his ability to constantly develop. He remains true to his claim to surprise the market with innovations until the end of his life. This is how he drives his own production as well as the entire avant-garde.

Public relations. Picasso cultivates and promotes his image as a solitary genius of the century. But he does not withdraw into the elitist. As a PR expert of high grades, he uses his fame for political and social engagement. That in turn increases his fame. Of course, he never lets himself be captured by the public, but always stages himself in public according to his own ideas.

The artist Picasso is constantly looking for innovation, while the citizen Picasso, as a self-confessed communist, has a firm stance. That gives him respect even with political opponents. During the years of the Spanish Civil War, Picasso vehemently agitated against the terror of the Falangists. On April 26, 1937, German bombers destroyed the Basque city of Guernica. Picasso reacts to this with “Guernica”, the most harrowing war accusation in art history. In the summer of 1937 he showed the painting in the Spanish pavilion at the Paris World's Fair. The cultural and political turmoil triggered by the picture carries the name "Picasso" all over the world. The prices for his works are skyrocketing.

Mergers & Acquisitions. The company "Picasso" increases its energies through seven mergers. The changing co-partners are Fernande Olivier, Marcelle Humbert, Olga Koklowa, Marie-Thérèse Walter, Dora Maar, Françoise Gilot and Jacqueline Roque. Every new merger brings the company worldwide publicity. And each of the temporary partners gives the artist new ideas. Corresponding work groups can thus be assigned to all connections.

Picasso receives important impulses from innovations of the competition. He regularly buys outstanding products from other competitors and deals with them creatively. His preoccupation with his main competitor Henri Matisse (1869-1954) is particularly fruitful.

Brand / Brand Icons. With “Guernica” Picasso has finally become a brand. In 1976 Sotheby’s rejected a demonstrably genuine Picasso painting because the brand signature "Picasso" was missing. The bull and the dove are among the motifs that have a lifelong meaning for Picasso. In his first oil painting, when he was eight years old at the time, he depicts a bullfight. During this time he also draws series of pigeons. In 1942 he condensed the “bull” theme into an ingenious assemblage: he created the famous “animal skull” from a bicycle saddle and an old handlebar. 19 years later he sketched “Die Taube” (1961) in his workbook. Both works are formally reduced to almost the rudimentary; The long intensive occupation with the motifs, however, gives these works an expressiveness that continues to move today. The Picasso dove is a symbol of peace on all continents. For artists all over the world, the “bull's skull” is a kind of emblem of innovative and courageous creativity.

Brand Image Controlling. When his last wife, Jacqueline, accused him of paying too little attention to his clothes, Picasso replied: "I am very vain, but only in a higher sense." In his "higher sense" he has the media and posterity. In principle, he can only be photographed by the best photographers who also work for major media. And he stages the respective motifs himself. During his lifetime, almost exclusively recordings that he has approved are published. Famous photographers Picasso is allowed to photograph include Cecil Beaton, Brassaï, Robert Capa, David Douglas Duncan, Yousuf Karsh, Arnold Newman, Irving Penn, Man Ray.

Merchandising. In the force field of the “Picasso” brand, a merchandising market is emerging that moves millions of dollars. The range of products covers all age groups. The offer ranges from postcards, posters, calendars and books to coffee mugs, T-shirts and ties. The number of jobs associated with this value chain is estimated at many hundreds.

Brand Influence. The influences of the “Picasso” brand can hardly be overlooked. Famous artists who pay homage to Picasso as a teacher in words and works include Roy Lichtenstein, Frank Stella, Claes Oldenburg, Sandro Chia, Jasper Johns and Willem de Kooning. Entire generations of architects are also influenced by the formal language of Cubism. The spectacular buildings by Frank O. Gehry are inconceivable without Picasso.

Brand Extension. After the artist's death, his daughter Paloma proves to be particularly prudent and creative. Under the brand name “Paloma Picasso” she designs jewelry for Tiffany, a product series for the cosmetics company L’Oréal and design templates for the ceramic manufacturer Villeroy & Boch. At the turn of the millennium, Citroën launched the “Citroën Xsara Picasso” model.

Brand awareness. When Picasso exhibited four works in the famous New York “Armory Show” in 1913, the New York Times asked: “Who is Picasso?” In 1993 the Spanish government initiated a survey on the 20th anniversary of the artist's death. The result surprised even optimists: “Picasso” is a term for 84 percent of all respondents. Only 71 percent know the name of US President Bill Clinton, who was in office at the time. Market performance. In the market analysis of 20th century art, the “Picasso” brand stands for continuous growth in price volume. A comparison with the development of the Dow Jones Index shows that the company "Picasso" has a higher percentage increase in value than the blue chip class of the US industry. From early Impressionist-Fauvist work to age-rich production of forms: the international art market has assimilated all of Picasso's work phases.

The winning story begins with 50 French francs: that's how much an early Picasso work cost at the beginning of the 20th century. Until the 50s, the index curve moves steadily upwards. In 1958, Picasso's first market record hit the headlines. His early work “The Beautiful Dutch Woman” (1905) achieved the highest auction price that had been paid for a painting by a living painter up to that point: 661,100 Swiss francs.Nine years later, Sotheby's announced another “auction world record for a 20th century artwork”: The Bodley Gallery in New York acquired the Picasso painting “Mother and Child on the Beach” (1902) for £ 190,000 (then around £ 2.1 million Mark). In 1973 the Washington National Gallery pays the top price of $ 1.1 million for the Cubist work "Female Nude" (1910). Kahnweiler paid 120 francs for this painting in 1910.

After the artist's death, the index curve continues to skyrocket. In 1998, at a time when the art market was slacking, the Picasso painting “The Dream” (1932) achieved a new record price: $ 48.4 million. In the Picasso century, his works, adjusted for purchasing power, increased in value by more than 300,000 times.

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