Will Damaged Picasso Be Worth As Much?

A visitor to the Metropolitan Museum of Art last week stumbled into a Picasso painting, gashing it and denting the canvas. The museum says the piece will be repaired in time for an exhibition of the artist's works in April. The art world is asking: Will it ever be worth the same?

ARI SHAPIRO, host:

If youve ever had a house guest break something valuable, I mean, really, really valuable, then you have some idea what the Metropolitan Museum of Art is going through.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

A few days ago, a visitor stumbled into a Picasso painting, gashing it and denting the canvas. The art world is asking if it will ever be the same and if it will ever be worth the same.

SHAPIRO: We called art writer Sarah Thornton to find out.

Ms. SARAH THORNTON (Art Writer): Well, damage is usually something that decreases the value of the work. Occasionally, if its kind of exciting damage, it can add narrative and actually increase the value. Thats quite rare but it does happen.

INSKEEP: Exciting damage?

Ms. THORNTON: It could have been a famous person like George Clooney falling through the painting. That might have increased value.

SHAPIRO: Unfortunately for the value of this painting, the woman who busted it is not famous or, at least, she wasnt before this incident.

INSKEEP: So lets run some numbers. News reports suggest that before the accident the painting might have been worth $130 million at the very most.

SHAPIRO: Now that value may well go down, even after the painting is restored and the damage is hidden. Eric Fischer brokers insurance policies for museum art.

Mr. ERIC FISCHER (Insurance broker): So a tear in a painting, the range could be anywhere. So if its a minor tear, you really couldnt see it, they may put a five percent loss in value on it. For something more significant, then certainly that percentage goes up.

INSKEEP: Okay, it maybe tacky to think about money when youre speaking of fine art, but being tacky has never stopped us before. And as a curiosity, this paintings value may go up.

SHAPIRO: After all, people are talking about the painting on the news. Visitors will want to come see it, even if theyre not looking at a dent caused by George Clooney.

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