Well, okay, the Spanish painter wasn’t really in New York, any more than the building where a work of his allegedly hangs, the Exxon Building, is really Exxon’s—at least not now. I know it sounds confusing, but I can explain. (Yes, please do!)
Across the street from where I work, in Rockefeller Center, is 1251 Avenue of the Americas. I’d been working in this area for 15 years, and had been passing in and out of this particular skyscraper, off and on, for probably as long. But only during the very quiet days of Christmas did I stop in the lobby and was struck at once by this particular tapestry. As soon as I read the attribution on the inscription beneath it, I realized why it stunned me.
“Pablo Picasso,” it read. Yes, that explained the nature of the shapes I saw before me, but not how this building got hold of such an astonishing creation by one of the 20th century’s most famous artists.
“Mercure,” I saw next on the inscription. Hmm…like Mercury. Moving fast. Like his commissions and emotions.
Then the next phrase to catch my eye explained everything: “artist-authorized reproduction.” In other words, it wasn’t the original. That stage curtain, created for a 1924 ballet with music by Erik Satie, remains in the city where it was created, Paris. This object was created more than four decades later, untouched by his hand, if not his spirit.
As for this building: It was completed in 1971, designed as the headquarters for Exxon. But less than two decades later, the oil giant announced it was moving its corporate base of operations to where you might expect.
Yes, Texas. Oil country. Leaving a building in midtown that was "All hat, no cattle," as they say.
Sort of like hanging a striking tapestry by “Pablo Picasso,” only that was really supervised by him. Maybe.