That time I found a Picasso

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One of my larger projects this summer was working 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.

This little ceramic guy 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.

Turning 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.

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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.

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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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Debra Baida is the owner of Liberated Spaces.