Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal

‚Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal‘. This famous quote by Pablo Picasso is the title and the basis of our new collaborative exhibition with Artcurial and Marco Pesarese Fine Art. The exhibition includes 30 prints Picasso from 1927 to 1963, and five contemporary artists’s interpretation of these prints, and the artist’s infamous influence on art history. Click here to check the list of works available.

The starting point was Marco Pesarese’s collection of prints, including main sheets from the Suite Vollard from the 1930s, a high point in the artist’s graphic oeuvre. Picasso’s rarest prints ever: Minotaure à la coupe et son amie, 1933-34. So far, only one copy of this etching is known. Picasso dedicated it to the printer of the Vollard suite, Roger Lacourière, and it is a sensation to see this work in an exhibition. Building on this, Michael Zink decides to take the infamous artist’s quote to curate the contemporary response to the prints. Artists chosen are Dirk Zoete, Jana Gunstheimer, Baldur Helgason, Michael Sailstorfer, Matias Sanchez.

This quote, attributed to Picasso, was popularised in recent years as Steve Jobs famously quoted it to describe Apple’s philosophy. But this idea is not unique to him, and has been stated by various poets, musicians and artists such as T.S. Eliot, Igor Stravinsky, William Faulkner. This quote addresses the idea of originality and creative genius. Essentially, a ‚good artist‘ will merely see another style and emulate it as closely as they can – copying. That is almost like the craft of imitation, not artistry. Whereas a ‚great artist‘ will take elements from another artist’s style and incorporate it into their own, making it theirs – stealing. Although Picasso is known for his role in innovating art styles in the early 20th century, he is also a great observer and takes inspiration from old masters like Francisco Goya and Diego Velazquez to his contemporaries like Paul Cezanne and Henri Matisse. 

In school, we always said to each other cheekily, „to copy from one is plagiarism; to copy from many is research“ when it came time to write essays. I suppose it demonstrated the ability to absorb various sources and melding it cohesively to make something. True innovation nowadays is almost impossible, artists may recontextualize, remix, substitute, or otherwise mashup existing work to create something new.

Matias Sanchez and Picasso prints at Artcurial Germany Matías Sánchez
Picasso En Mougins, 2011
Oil on linen
97 × 130 cm (38 ¼ × 51 ⅛ inches)

The five contemporary artists all chose their own way to pay homage to the great artist. Fellow Spanish compatriot Matías Sánchez from Seville portrays an old Pablo Picasso with a palette and brush in front of his easel in 1972, the year before his death. Matias frequently pays homage to great artists of the past, as a way to contextualise his own place in art history.

Michael Sailstorfer at Artcurial Germany Michael Sailstorfer
MC18, 2017
ceramic, glaze
53 × 46 × 12 cm (20 ⅞ × 18 ⅛ × 4 ¾ inches)
Baldur Helgason and Picasso prints at Artcurial Germany Baldur Helgason
Hitchhiker, 2021
120 × 100 cm (47 ¼ × 39 ⅜ inches)
Michael Sailstorfer and Picasso print at Artcurial Germany Michael Sailstorfer
Brain F2, 2021
rope, iron
59 × 34 × 25 cm (23 ¼ × 13 ⅜ × 9 ⅞ inches)

Aesthetically, Icelandic painter Baldur Helgason draws inspiration from Picasso’s iconic visual language of deconstructing his figures and reassembling them in a destabilising way. On the other hand, Michael Sailstorfer’s amorphous ceramic masks demonstrate traces of idiosyncratic physiognomies of Picasso’s portraits, which were inspired by the aesthetics of traditional archaic masks from Africa and Oceania.

Jana Gunstheimer and Picasso prints at Artcurial Germany Jana Gunstheimer
Methods of Destruction/ Nude with clasped Hands, 2014
graphite and metal type on paper
93 × 125 cm (36 ⅝ × 49 ¼ inches)

Ideologically, Picasso’s abstract paintings of his lovers and muse challenge the concept of ‚beauty‘. Jana Gunstheimer, shows from her series „Methods of Destruction“ what happens when, in the course of a restoration, the ideal of beauty is also adapted to the times.

Picasso is mostly known for his Cubist paintings. And while his printmaking career was also incredibly prolific, it definitely has less attention. Since this exhibition highlights his prints, Belgian draftsman and sculptor Dirk Zoete pays homage to his technique. He adapts the lightness of Picasso’s stroke by drawing his figure on the wall with woolen threads. Upon first glance they may appear quite different, but both artists create something that floats off the surface with the meticulous placement of fine strokes.

The exhibition is on until October 29 in Artcurial, Munich. Get in touch to find out more.

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