In regards to my report titled "The Picabia Affair" and the response of the Picabia Committee to it, new documents have come to light, contributing additional information.
These new documents, in particular the extremely detailed inventory of the Picabia estate, contradict the statements made by the Picabia Committee to prove the authenticity of works declared to be fakes by myself in my report, "The Picabia Affair."
All the documents in question are attached herewith. The abbreviation "PC" stands for Picabia Committee."
New documents concerning the works declared to be fakes by myself and upheld as authentic by the Picabia Committee.
I. The case of Colombe 1924-1926 and Composition abstraite (ca. 1938).
In my report "The Picabia Affair," the works that I declared to be fakes and which the PC upholds as authentic include:
1) Colombe 1924-1926, colored crayon and gouache on paper, 50 x 33 cm, signed "Francis Picabia" at bottom right (rep. no. 7).
2) Composition abstraite (ca. 1938), gouache on paper, 29 x 30 cm, initialed "F.P." (rep. no. 8).
These two works were completely unknown until they appeared for the first time in a Francis Picabia retrospective at the Museo de Pobo Galego in Santiago de Compostela in 1996 (cat. No 29 and 46, reproduced in color) (rep. nos. 7, 8).
In its reply to "The Picabia Affair," the PC states, to prove the authenticity of these two works, that they are "examples of the simplest possible authentication because they come directly from Picabia's atelier (1), which they had never left before this exhibition." (rep. no. 9) The PC has offered no proof in support of this assertion.
I have since put my hands on the inventory drawn up after Picabia's death in 1954. This inventory prompts the following observations:
a) I am not reproducing this document in full because it contains 55 pages. But the inventory is very comprehensive: even the kitchen furniture is described, and the contents of cupboards and the cellar have also been inventoried (rep. nos. 10, 11).
b) With regard to the inventory of paintings and drawings, this was drawn up, in addition to the notaries present, by two auctioneers, Maître Alphonse Bellier and Maître Juzon, and two experts, Mr. Dubourg and Mr. Robert Lebel. Auctioneer Maître Bellier was a modern art specialist, and the first person to hold sales of exclusively modern art in France; he was, for example, the auctioneer for the sales of the collections of Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler in 1921-1923. Mr. Robert Lebel and Mr. Dubourg both had credentials that make them two of the best known experts in Paris.
Further, Mr. Lebel was himself an enthusiastic collector of Picabia works and had, among, other things, written a book on Marcel Duchamp.
The inventory drawn up by these eminent persons is very comprehensive and accurate (rep. no. 12). The descriptions of the works listed in this inventory are thus trustworthy.
c) Olga Picabia also mentioned a picture which had been given to a gallery in Lima (Peru), for inclusion in this inventory; she gave the notaries the receipt for this work, which was thus absent at the time when this inventory was drawn up. She could easily have omitted to mention this work (rep. no. 13).
d) Lastly, the inventory even makes specific note of each one of the 182 pencil, pen and Indian ink drawings, and makes a distinction between the loose drawings and those which are either framed or mounted. Several of these 182 drawings are still to be found today, showing that they are small works, and, incidentally, worth very little (at that time, 350 francs were worth about one dollar). After close examination, neither of the two abovementioned works (Colombe (1924-1926) and Composition abstraite (ca. 1938)), about which the PC states that "they come directly from Picabia's atelier, which they had never left before this exhibition," feature in this inventory. None of the works described in this inventory tallies either with Colombe (1924-1926) or with Composition abstraite (ca. 1938). Some of the 182 unframed drawings are indeed titled "Colombe" (rep. no. 14), but none of them, at least in terms of technique, tallies with the work which appeared for the first time in 1996 in Santiago de Compostela, 43 years after the artist's death, and which, furthermore, looks much more like a fake Max Ernst that a Picabia (authentic or fake).
The first question raised has to do with knowing on the basis of what proof the PC has seen fit to assert that Colombe (1924-1926) and Composition abstraite (ca. 1938) "come directly from Picabia's atelier" and that these two works "had never left (it) before this exhibition" (the 1996 show in Santiago de Compostela).
The second questions that is of course raised has to do with knowing whether the PC had a copy of this inventory at the time when it stated that the provenance of these two works was "Picabia's atelier."
I would remind you that this assertion concerning the provenance of these two works has been signed by the four members of the PC: Mrs. Borras, Mr. Calté, Mr. Camfield and Mr. Pierre, and that each of the three art historians has not only signed a statement but also, in this selfsame PC document, accompanied his or her name with the relevant university titles and functions (rep. no. 15):
• Mrs. Borras, former professor at Barcelona University,
• Mr. Camfield, professor emeritus at Rice University, Houston
• Mr. Pierre, lecturer at the Sorbonne.
The PC would do well to answer the questions raised in this paragraph with detailed proof, and without avoiding the issue.
It would not be proper, without solid proof, to make Olga Picabia (now deceased) responsible for the above-mentioned questions. What is more, the fact that she, herself, on her own initiative, declared to the estate a picture that happened to be in Peru at the time of the inventory is the proof of her sincerity; moreover, if all accounts are agreed in describing Olga Picabia as having been incompetent with regard to Picabia's oeuvre, none has ever described her as a dishonest person.
In this respect, it is important to make a clear distinction between works that appeared in Olga Picabia's home shortly before the 1996 exhibition in Santiago de Compostela and works present in Picabia's studio at the time of the artist's death.
II The case of Paysage (1909)
Here again, this is a work declared to be a fake by myself but which the PC declared to be authentic (rep. no. 16); this work is part of a series of colored crayon drawings on paper, all similar and all by the same "hand," which appeared for the first time in a Picabia retrospective held in Madrid in 1985. On that occasion, the afore-mentioned Mrs. Borras declared them all fakes (in 1985, there was yet no PC. Subsequently, several of these works were exhibited at the stand of an Italian gallery at the FIAC in Paris. This is where I saw them for the first time, and, unaware of the opinion expressed by Mrs. Borras in 1985 in Madrid, I too declared them to be fakes. Today, the PC exists and Mrs. Borras, who is member thereof, has changed her mind: she now declares the works in this series to be authentic.
In its reply to my report "The Picabia Affair," the PC states that the scientific analysis of Paysage (1909), exhibited in Lisbon, makes it possible to affirm that this work is authentic.
I accordingly asked the PC to forward me a copy of this analysis; it was only at my third request (my letters of Sept. 27, Oct. 12, and Oct. 19, 2002) that the PC agreed to forward me a copy of the analysis report, which I reproduce here in full (just two pages, rep. no. 17). I am quite prepared to believe that nobody on the PC knows the slightest thing about the scientific analysis of paintings, but I do wonder about the swiftness of the conclusions drawn by the PC there from, in view, among other things, of the brief nature of this report.
The minimum criticisms that may be leveled at this report, which, incidentally, makes no pronouncement as to the possible authenticity of Paysage (1909) (2) are at least these:
• the methodology used to obtain the findings is not described.
• The analytical findings are not separate from the interpretation thereof.
• Only two pigments (red and blue) have been analyzed.
• In the case of the red paint, it is possible to take things much further and distinguish between the different types of paint (synthetic, animal, vegetable or dye).
• Likewise, it is possible to distinguish between synthetic wax and natural wax.
To state that the work Paysage (1909) is authentic on the basis of these two pages is truly to make a mockery of things.
III The case of the collages in the JMT (Jousseaume-Manoukian-Tarica) series
These are collages that appeared between 1968 and 1970, and which were declared fakes by some, authentic by others, and thoroughly authentic in my own view. The PC still asserts that the collages in this series are fakes regardless of all the documents that I have put my hands on, proving the authenticity of one of them, titled Potpotin (3).
Pending the advent of new documents about this case, too, one or two additional details can be mentioned.
For years, the PC has keenly believed that the alleged forger of these JMT collages was a relative of Picabia.
Because the Verona Museum exhibited one of the collages in the JMT series at the Palazzo Forti Museum in 1997, the PC is currently bringing a case against it involving a massive claim for damages and interest due, on the pretext that the Picabia oeuvre has suffered moral and financial damage by the fact of this collage having been exhibited.
It is worth noting that with the work that I have called a fake and which has been exhibited many times (4) (rep. no. 18), in other words a crude fake, also recognized by the PC, and which appeared between 1995 and 1998 three times at auction and once on view (5) in Paris, the PC has never reacted nor brought legal action against anyone whomsoever.
Staying with the Verona court case, The PC specifies in its response to my report "The Picabia Affair" that: "For those who are interested, The Picabia Committee has in its archives a report that Mr. Camfield recently furnished to the Italian court of justice," which links the collages in the JMT series with a series of well-known fakes called the Hanover-Schwarz (6) series ("H.-S." for short).
I have twice asked the PC to forward me this report which "The PC makes available for those who are interested" (7), but have not as yet received it: The PC has refused to send it to me.
The works in the H.-S. series differ radically fro m the JMT collages, for:
• The provenances of the two series have nothing to do with one another.
The H.-S. series relates explicitly to Picabia's mechanical period whereas the works in the JMT series relate to Picabia's collage period.
• The technique used for producing the works in the H.-S. series is watercolor on paper whereas for the JMT collages it is gouache on board.
• The spirit and materials of the collages used in the two series are very different. In addition, the identity of the H.-S. series forger has been known for more than 20 years: he is Guy L. and he is not a relative of the Picabia family.
1. The italics are the PC's
2. It is actually only the PC that regards it as authentic.
3. See my report "The Picabia Affair," Chapter 3, h, p. 22-23.
4. See my report "The Picabia Affair," Chapter 1, e, p. 6-7.
5. Sale of Apr. 9, 1995, at Me. Perrin, Royère and Lajeunesse in Versailles, no. 61, rep. in the catalogue. Christie's sale in London, on July 2, 1998, no. 259, rep. in the catalogue. Sale of Oct. 10, 1998, Me. Cornette of Saint-Cyr, no. 5, rep. in the catalogue. Exhibition at the Galerie de l'Etoile, Paris, "Liberté-Humour-Dèrision, Duchamp-Picabia-Man Ray," June, 1993.
6. After the names of the two gallery owners who, in good faith, owned many works in this series.
7. Mr. Camfield himself signed the text in which this offer features.
The Comité Picabia Response
by the Comité Picabia
M. Tarica's "New Documents..." is his third public attack on the Comité Picabia on Artnet. The Comité Picabia chose to respond in detail to his initial attack (see "The Picabia Affair" and "The Picabia Affair, Part II"). Beginning with his second attack, we have elected to spare the reader and ourselves by not participating in the unseemly, unproductive argument he pursues. We think that his first attack and our initial response demonstrate abundantly his motivations, his methods, and the merits and demerits of his arguments -- above all the demerits of those motivations, methods, and arguments. If you are interested in this affair, we suggest that you read the first exchange between M. Tarica and the Comité Picabia.
Notice to Tarica's private list:
Dear Recipients of M. Tarica's attacks of the Comité Picabia:
We enclose a copy of our response to M. Tarica's third attack of the Comite, "New Documents Concerning the Paintings Declared False by Me and Affirmed Authentic by the Comite Picabia." This response will be
submitted to Artnet, where M. Tarica wages his "public attacks." It
will also be published on another site, comite-picabia. com.
We would gladly address you by your name, but M. Tarica declines to identify you on the grounds that he considers his correspondence with you to be "a private matter." If you prefer to hear from us directly rather than through the Tarica postal service, our address is 26, rue Danielle Casanova, 75002 Paris; fax 01 42 60 23 78.
The Comite Picabia