Fine Art Fight: Five Reasons Stephen Colbert is Better Than Picasso

  • Share
  • Read Later

Comedy Central

The art world went all aflutter this week when Picasso’s “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust,” the most expensive painting ever sold at auction, went on the wall at the Tate Modern in London. But on Tuesday, a cooler transaction took place when Stephen Colbert’s fake-ish portrait was auctioned off for a mere $26,000.

Picasso's "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust," the most expensive painting ever sold at auction

And no, we’re not just saying that to get on Colbert’s good side. Here are five reasons that the comedic artist’s auction and work were better than that ole Spaniard’s.

(More on See the top 10 Stephen Colbert moments)

1. Picasso is just one man

Yes, he was a great one, but Colbert’s work involved not just his artful posing but the contributions of three high-profile artists of our time: Shepard Fairey — who created the famous Obama “Hope” poster — Andres Serrano and Frank Stella. (He brought them on one-by-one during an episode of his show to make their contributions, whether drawing a Hitler mustache or adding graffiti, in an attempt to get guest Steve Martin to be interested in his portrait.) That means you get four instead of one. It’s just math.

2. Where the money went

Colbert might have only brought in $26,000, while Picasso’s painting went for $106.5 million last year, but Colbert donated all the proceeds to charity. What sort of moral lessons can we meanwhile take from Pablo? Well, the figure in his painting is a mistress that he left his wife for. I mean, love is love and all that, but we’re just saying.

3. Colbert was there

Granted Picasso has the very air-tight excuse of being dead when his auction took place, but that doesn’t make it any less fun that Colbert actually attended the selling of his art — and, to increase the bidding, ran up and took the gavel from the auctioneer. “We’re doing this for children,” he was reported as saying. “If you’re not raising your paddle it means you hate children.”

4. Bringing hope to the unartistic

Colbert’s successful auction — he did, after all, bring in the equivalent of a new Prius for a few minutes work — is proof that being clever is a sufficient substitute for being artistically talented. And for those out there who can’t draw so much as a convincing stick figure, this can keep alive those dreams of one day seeing your own work on the block at Sotheby’s.

5. You don’t have to understand art to appreciate Sir Stephen’s work

Colbert’s work could give legitimate rise to long and pedantic conversations, likely had among graduate students, about the moment art becomes art — how intention factors in, if there’s a necessary emotional component, if art exists the moment there is an idea. Cubism, Picasso’s mode of choice, is likewise fertile ground for this sort of discussion. But you don’t need an MFA to appreciate Colbert’s work: You’ll do just fine with a sense of humor. Now that’s art for the masses.

(More on See pictures from the Stewart-Colbert rally)