Society

Shopping For A Picasso The Rest Of Us Can Afford

Original Pablo Picasso ceramics made between 1947 and 1973 – the year the famous Spanish painter died – are sold at quite reasonable prices: between 500 and 8000 euros a piece.

Picasso ceramics (dr.jd)
Louise Thomas

PARIS - Did you know that you can buy a Picasso for less than 1000 euros? Of course not one of his great paintings, or even one of his very small drawings, but his ceramics come in at more or less this price.

Picasso discovered ceramics in 1946 when he went to an exhibition in Vallauris, a town in southeastern France. He was then introduced to a couple of potters, Suzanne and Georges Ramié -- and he was on his way.

The Ramiés, who founded the Madoura Pottery workshop, helped Picasso discover a whole new world. The Spaniard made his first pieces of pottery in 1947. Very quickly, he became fascinated by the clay, by the way potters tilled and fired it. At the beginning, he contended himself with imagining plates, dishes and utilitarian jugs. He even turned out a set of fish plates.

But he finally abandoned this project to make decorative pieces instead. The idea, however, was always the same: making creative pieces of art available for a wider public. At the time, those ceramics were sold in shops or galleries at very reasonable prices, and were bought by middle-class clients.

"Some ceramics still reappear like this. They come directly from their first buyers because they have stayed in those families for all those years," explains Emmanuel Eyraud, an expert in 20th century decorative arts. These small bowls or simple jugs – 500 copies of them still exist – are worth between 500 and 1500 euros. "But the prices rise quickly, according to the quality of the decorations on the piece, according to its size or according to the number of copies made," Eyraud adds.

The simplest standard models which count 250 copies are worth between 2000 and 3000 euros, whereas the most original ones are worth 8000 euros. Picasso took an unfailing interest in ceramics until he died in 1973. He created thousands of different pieces. "He really took an active role in launching pottery in the 1950s and many potters were inspired by his work," Eyraud says.

Picasso made several thousand models, but many were never reproduced. Why? Either because they only represented an early stage of his work, a first attempt, or because the initial idea was to create something unique. In the latter case, these unique ceramics are as expensive and as coveted by art lovers as some of the Spanish master's paintings.

Priced out of the market

This summer, art lovers can admire or buy Picasso's pictorial works in Monaco. Opera Gallery, a leading network of eleven contemporary art galleries worldwide, has been organizing an exceptional exhibition/auction of 35 oil paintings and drawings by Picasso until August 27, 2011.

They were all produced between 1905 and 1968, in other words almost from the beginning to the end of his artistic career. "More than a year was needed to gather this collection," says Gilles Dyan, director of Opera Gallery. "This collection is composed of pieces from private collections or from the artist's family. There are also some acquisitions made by the Opera Gallery itself, from merchants or auctions," he adds.

Those masterpieces cost a fortune: the cheapest drawing is worth 150,000 euros whereas the most valuable painting comes in at 5 million euros. Gilles Dyan is nonetheless sure that people will buy them anyway: "Picasso is one of the art market's blue chips. Selling Picasso at auction is a safe bet. There are potential buyers all around the world. Besides, what makes him different from other masters is that many of his works circulate, which allows future transactions to occur."

But how can we explain such wide fascination with Picasso? In 2009, Picasso and the Masters exhibition at the Grand Palais – the Parisian exhibition hall and museum – proved it once again, breaking attendance records. "Picasso is simply the 20th century artist. There are at least seven or eight different stages in his work," Gilles Dyan says. "He knew how to change his style as years went by, he knew how to question his own work. Even the people who don't know anything about art are moved by his creations."

photo - dr.jd

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Economy

Merkel's Legacy: The Rise And Stall Of The German Economy

How have 16 years of Chancellor Angela Merkel changed Germany? The Chancellor accompanied the country's rise to near economic superpower status — and then progress stalled. On technology and beyond, Germany needs real reforms under Merkel's successor.

Chancellor Angela Merkel looks at the presentation of the current 2 Euro commemorative coin ''Brandenburg''

Daniel Eckert

BERLIN — Germans are doing better than ever. By many standards, the economy broke records during the reign of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel: private households' financial assets have climbed to a peak; the number of jobs recorded a historic high before the pandemic hit at the beginning of 2020; the GDP — the sum of all goods and services produced in a period — also reached an all-time high.

And still, while the economic balance sheet of Merkel's 16 years is outstanding if taken at face value, on closer inspection one thing catches the eye: against the backdrop of globalization, Europe's largest economy no longer has the clout it had at the beginning of the century. Germany has fallen behind in key sectors that will shape the future of the world, and even the competitiveness of its manufacturing industries shows unmistakable signs of fatigue.

In 2004, a year before Merkel was first elected Chancellor, the British magazine The Economist branded Germany the "sick man of Europe." Ironically, the previous government, a coalition of center-left and green parties, had already laid the foundations for recovery with some reforms. Facing the threat of high unemployment, unions had held back on wage demands.

"Up until the Covid-19 crisis, Germany had achieved strong economic growth with both high and low unemployment," says Michael Holstein, chief economist at DZ Bank. However, it never made important decisions for its future.

Another economist, Jens Südekum of Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, offers a different perspective: "Angela Merkel profited greatly from the preparatory work of her predecessor. This is particularly true regarding the extreme wage restraint practiced in Germany in the early 2000s."

Above all, Germany was helped in the first half of the Merkel era by global economic upheaval. Between the turn of the millennium and the 2011-2012 debt crisis, emerging countries, led by China, experienced unprecedented growth. With many German companies specializing in manufacturing industrial machines and systems, the rise of rapidly industrializing countries was a boon for the country's economy.

Germany dismissed Google as an over-hyped tech company.

Digital competitiveness, on the other hand, was not a big problem in 2005 when Merkel became chancellor. Google went public the year before, but was dismissed as an over-hyped tech company in Germany. Apple's iPhone was not due to hit the market until 2007, then quickly achieved cult status and ushered in a new phase of the global economy.

Germany struggled with the digital economy, partly because of the slow expansion of internet infrastructure in the country. Regulation, lengthy start-up processes and in some cases high taxation contributed to how the former economic wonderland became marginalized in some of the most innovative sectors of the 21st century.

Volkswagen's press plant in Zwickau, Germany — Photo: Jan Woitas/dpa/ZUMA

"When it comes to digitization today, Germany has a lot of catching up to do with the relevant infrastructure, such as the expansion of fiber optics, but also with digital administration," says Stefan Kooths, Director of the Economic and Growth Research Center at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel).

For a long time now, the country has made no adjustments to its pension system to ward off the imminent demographic problems caused by an increasingly aging population. "The social security system is not future-proof," says Kooths. The most recent changes have come at the expense of future generations and taxpayers, the economist says.

Low euro exchange rates favored German exports

Nevertheless, things seemed to go well for the German economy at the start of the Merkel era. In part, this can be explained by the economic downturn caused by the euro debt crisis of 2011-2012. Unlike in the previous decade, the low euro exchange rate favored German exports and made money flow into German coffers. And since then-European Central Bank president Mario Draghi's decision to save the euro "whatever it takes" in 2012, this money has become cheaper and cheaper.

In the long run, these factors inflated the prices of real estate and other sectors but failed to contribute to the future viability of the country. "With the financial crisis and the national debt crisis that followed, economic policy got into crisis mode, and it never emerged from it again," says DZ chief economist Holstein. Policy, he explains, was geared towards countering crises and maintaining the status quo. "The goal of remaining competitive fell to the background, as did issues concerning the future."

In the traditional field of manufacturing, the situation deteriorated significantly. The Institut der Deutschen Wirtschaft (IW), which regularly measures and compares the competitiveness of industries in different countries, recently concluded that German companies have lost many of the advantages they had gained. The high level of productivity, which used to be one of the country's strengths, faltered in the years before the pandemic.

Kooths, of IfW Kiel, points out that private investment in the German economy has declined in recent years, while the "government quota" in the economy, which describes the amount of government expenditure against the GDP, grew significantly during Merkel's tenure, from 43.5% in 2005 to 46.5% in 2019. Kooths concludes that: "Overall, the state's influence on economic activity has increased significantly."

Another very crucial aspect of competitiveness, at least from the point of view of skilled workers and companies, has been neglected by German politics for years: taxes and social contributions. The country has among the highest taxes on income in Europe, and corporate taxes are also hardly as high as in Germany anywhere in the industrialized world. "In the long run, high tax rates always come at the expense of economic dynamism and can even prevent new companies from being set up," warns Kooths.

Startups can renew an economy and lay the foundation for future prosperity. Between the year 2000 and the Covid-19 crisis, fewer and fewer new companies were created every year. Economists from left to right are unanimous: Angela Merkel is leaving behind a country with considerable need for reform.

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