It sounds too good to be true – a Picasso worth an estimated $1m (£670,500) for €100. But “L’homme au Gibus”, or “Man with Opera Hat”, a gouache on paper dating from 1914, could be yours for the price of a Eurostar ticket.
For the first time, a work by Picasso is to be raffled. A total of 50,000 tickets will be issued, each costing €100. The work will be displayed at the Pavilion of Art and Design (PAD) in London from October 16 to 20; tickets will be on sale at PAD and are also available on the raffle website. The lottery draw will take place in Paris on December 18 and will be broadcast live on the website.
Organised by Sotheby’s and the International Association to Save Tyre (AIST), the proceeds will go towards research, conservation and development projects in the ancient Phoenician city of Tyre on the southern coast of Lebanon. During the civil war of the 1970s and 1980s, Tyre’s ancient monuments were not only damaged by the fighting, but also threatened by encroaching urban development.
“L’homme au Gibus” is from Picasso’s cubist period; it measures 30.5cm x 24cm and is signed by the artist in the top right corner. It was bought by AIST from a gallery in New York and has been authenticated by the Picasso Estate as well as the artist’s children, Maya Picasso (daughter of Marie-Thérèse Walter) and Claude Ruiz-Picasso (son of Françoise Gilot).
“This is a very important drawing because it first stands witness on the cubist work carried out by my grandfather,” says Olivier Picasso, son of Maya.
It was Olivier Picasso and Péri Cochin, a French journalist of Iraqi and Lebanese descent, who came up with the idea of raising money by raffling a famous artwork online. Cochin, whose mother founded AIST in 1980, says that in the past the charity had always raised its funds at gala dinners – events at which, in her words, “you go there, you get bored, you don’t know what to talk about to your neighbour and at 11pm you want to go home as quickly as possible”.
So she suggested an alternative means of fundraising, and one with a far more international reach.
“By using the internet we can get in touch with people who do not already know us, people in China, Japan, Brazil – because at gala dinners it’s almost always the same people,” she says. “This is a different way to raise money.”
It’s a simple plan but, Cochin hopes, an effective one: if all 50,000 tickets are sold, the raffle will raise €5m for the cause.
For more details or to enter the raffle, see www.1picasso100euros.com
Ancient city of the royal purple
It all began with a sea-snail, the murex, which produced the rare purple dye that became the mark of imperial splendour. This product of the city of Tyre was at one time worth more than gold, and laid the foundations of the port’s virtual domination of the Mediterranean trade routes. Zechariah, in the Old Testament, records the city’s vast riches:
Tyre has built herself a stronghold, and heaped up silver like dust, and fine gold like the dirt of the streets.
But the Biblical verse also went on to warn of the city’s destruction:
But the Lord will take away her possessions and destroy her power on the sea, and she will be consumed by fire.
This was prescient. The ancient Phoenician city, which according to Herodotus was founded as far back as 2750BC, and which had prospered under rule of the pharaohs, was besieged and conquered over the centuries by Nebuchadnezzar II and Alexander the Great. It became a Roman province in 64BC, and from this era Tyre boasts impressive 2nd-century Roman remains (below) – one of the best-preserved hippodromes in the world, as well as a necropolis an impressive triumphal arch, baths and two palaestrae.
In the Byzantine period, Tyre’s glass, silk and pigment industries boomed. But each succeeding incomer eyed up this prize of the Mediterranean: the Arabs took the city in 635AD, turning it into a naval base, and Tyre was yet again besieged and captured by the Crusaders in 1124, marking the start of its decline.
After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1920, Tyre was subsumed into the French Mandate of Greater Lebanon, then into the Lebanese republic.