LONDON — Exciting, yet sad news out of the UK recently as Michael Attenborough, son of the late, great Richard Attenborough (spare no expense), announced that his parents’ collection of Pablo Picasso ceramics will go up for auction through Sotheby’s on November 22.
Above image: Pablo Picasso, Tête de Chèvre de Profil.
The works were collected by Lord and Lady Attenborough over the course of 50 years, as the couple vacationed in Paris. This is one of those interesting stories to come out of the art marketplace, where a work of some renown is enhanced by the people who owned it. Not to sound crass, but we wonder what that does to the price.
According to the auction house, the collection is comprised of vases, plates and jugs that bear Picasso’s signature motifs, such as faces, flora and fauna. You can browse the collection here.
The Guardian turned this into a cool little feature story, making the identities of these contemporary ceramics pop. They did this by looking through the lens of the young Michael. Most people can identify with the sometimes tedious vacations they took with their parents, only for Michael his family vacations were visited by one of the gods of modern art.
“My parents were rather habitual about their holidays, they loved what they knew,” he said. “They’d go to the same hotel, same bedroom, same mattress.”
A few miles from their hotel on the Cap d’Antibes was the Madoura pottery studio in Vallauris and it was here in 1954 that Lord Attenborough discovered Picasso ceramics, buying a few editions every year as a birthday treat.
His son recalled it being something of a grueling three-day journey as his father drove the family from London to France in his vast Bentley, planning the route according to Michelin star restaurant locations. “I remember running contests with myself as to whether I’d passed more Shell or Esso garages, I was always rooting for Shell, don’t know why,” he said.
There was then something of the ridiculous as Attenborough drove his oversized car down narrow lanes to Vallauris on his annual Picasso pilgrimage. “As a child I thought the whole thing was ludicrous, I thought why is he staring at all these bizarrely shaped pots and quite often laughing. He loved the wit of them.”
Depending on your point of view, Michael’s story of meeting Picasso turned either charming or creepy as the artist made a pass at his mother, Lady Sheila Beryl Grant Attenborough.
His son’s recollection of the meeting is slightly different, remembering Picasso as a flirt who told Attenborough that he did not sign autographs for men.
“My mother was duly summoned and Picasso just made eyes at her, it was outrageous, as he scribbled his autograph. He had a great sense of humour and was clearly an outrageous flirt but Dad did not really care, it was one of his great treasured possessions. He really felt Picasso was a genius.”
Though it’s sad that this collection will be disappearing into someone’s private collection very soon, Attenborough apparently had many, many Picasso ceramics. The actor made a lifetime loan of about 100 of these to Leicester’s New Walk Museum and Art Gallery in 2004.
Bill Rodgers is the Managing Editor of cfile.daily.
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