Pablo Picasso’s Buste de mousquetaire was painted in 1968 and acquired in 2017 by the Web community QoQa.ch. The 40,000 shares costing 50 CHF required for the acquisition of this painting, all found takers in … 48 hours, thus marking the first acquisition of an important work of modern art by an online community.
While this acquisition process differs from those used in museums, it still brings to mind an historical Swiss precedent. 50 years ago, the City of Basel suggested to its inhabitants to increase, by referendum, the amount of their taxes, in order to acquire two canvases by the very same Picasso. When the “yes” won, the painter, quite moved by the attitude of the population, gifted of two others.
The few periods when Picasso (1881–1973) stopped painting were followed by extremely fertile times of artistic production. As of 1935, while the Spanish Civil War was raging, he did not touch a paint brush for two years. When he picked one up again, in 1937, it was to produce Guernica. During the 1960s, a serious illness stopped him from painting. When his convalescence was over, in 1967, the figure of a mousquetaire emerged in his work, and was never to leave him again. Based on his renewed readings of the works of Alexandre Dumas and Shakespeare, and his rediscovery of such old masters as El Greco, Velasquez and, in particular, Rembrandt, this character of mousquetaire became an alter-ego of the painter. Its attributes bring to mind the subjects of Rembrandt’s Night Watch, thus displaying the painter’s fascination for the Golden Age of Dutch painting. Through this figure reminiscent of the world of childhood, magic, farces, and masquerades, he swam against the tide of the era’s main artistic trends (abstraction and minimalism). In this way, Picasso showed that, as John Richardson wrote “he felt free to do whatever he wanted, in whatever way he wanted, regardless of correctness, political, social or artistic.”