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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.

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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019