Pocket Change for a Picasso

Artsy Editorial
Feb 24, 2013 4:56PM

Imagine it’s the year 1913, the occasion of the first Armory Show. You make a special trip for a shoeshine (that costs you all of ten cents), during which you sip a five-cent coffee and daydream about the art you’ve heard so much about but have yet to see for yourself. For a dollar’s admission, you’re granted entry to the fair, and for $20, you exit with a Picasso under one arm and a Matisse in the other (you liked the Kandinsky, but $500 was a little steep).

Adjusting for inflation, it is slightly easier to understand how the main attraction of the fair, Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, was sold for $324. But even considering the conversion of the Armory Show’s most expensive work, Cézanne’s View of the Domaine Saint-Joseph that sold for $6,700—the equivalent of about $150,000 today—the works are still a bargain by our current stratospheric standards.

Photos courtesy of Smithsonian Archives of American Art. Check out their 1913 Armory Show digital exhibition here.

Artsy Editorial
Get the Artsy app
Download on the App StoreGet it on Google Play
Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019