Tale of the grinning fish

IMG_7201One of my larger projects this summer was to work with a pair of siblings and facilitate the sorting and clean out of their childhood home. It was a powerful journey for everyone in more ways than I can share, but something came out of this job is now a highlight of my organizing career to date.

The little ceramic guy (pictured above) sat on a shelf in the living room for as long as my clients could remember. When it came time to decide about items in that space, no one was interested in keeping it. Fortunately, there are many donation venue options around here, and they wanted to know if it should be added to a box for Goodwill or the annual white elephant sale that benefits programming and more at a local museum.

picasso_baseTurning it around in my hands, I didn’t want to commit to one or the other just yet. It was quirky and quite imperfect (see that long crack and the dark schmutz?), but the multiple markings on the bottom caught my curiosity. I asked  permission to take a few photos and do a little research first.

That evening I emailed them a couple of revealing links and asked if I could submit a query to an auction house for a valuation request. It turns out being a fan of Antiques Roadshow and having a degree in art history are useful.

I went to bed not knowing how long, if ever, it might take to get an answer. Less than 12 hours after clicking on the paper airplane icon (“send” in Apple Mail’s visual parlance), a response arrived. My intuition was confirmed: it was a real Picasso.

The night before delivering the suddenly-more-delicate-than-ever-before ceramic fish pitcher to the auction house, one of the siblings found documentation in their parents’ files that shows it was purchased for $9 in 1966. Yes. Nine dollars. For. A. Picasso.

picassopurchase Page from Bonham's Prints & Multiples auction, October 15, 2019.







Two weeks ago the fish sold at auction for $4,000.

Screenshot of Bonham's auction in progress.

What an unexpected surprise at the tail end of a wonderful collaboration.

Everyone – and not just Picasso’s fish – continues to grin.

*** Auction catalogue page and screenshot from Bonham’s Prints & Multiples auction on October 15, 2019. ***

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  1. Avatar
    Sven Reply

    What an awesome story! Your work is such a great adventure, you don’t even have to travel to exotic places.

  2. deb
    deb Reply

    I remember reading an article many years ago in which a documentary photographer said he didn’t need to travel across the world, but instead, all he had to do was pay attention and the stories he needed to share were in his own backyard. And this adventure took place a mere three miles from the backyard. Low carbon adventures, anyone?

  3. Avatar
    Hazel Thornton Reply

    What a great story! Thanks for sharing it with us.

    • deb
      deb Reply

      And I thank you for stopping by, Hazel!

  4. Avatar
    Laurie Malloy Reply

    This is so cool! Our work is always so fascinating & sure helps w/your background!

    • deb
      deb Reply

      The variety in our work is what keeps me going!

  5. Avatar
    Adriane Weinberg Reply

    A rare and valuable find, thanks to you, and a fantastic story! We pro organizers find all kinds of items, some of which are quite valuable, for our clients.

    • deb
      deb Reply

      Thanks for stopping by and having a read, Adriane!

  6. Avatar
    Jean Reply

    Like every one of your stories, this made me smile. Love this Deb! Love when our work enriches other people’s lives. Not just monetarily (though that’s nice!), but you’ve gifted them with such a great story to tell. They would never have known!

    • deb
      deb Reply

      Thank you so much, Jean. Your comment made me smile! I really love that this little figure was hiding in plain sight.

  7. Avatar
    Lauren West Reply

    This is a fabulous story! Love love love it!

    • deb
      deb Reply

      Thanks for stopping by and reading it, Lauren!

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