‘Pablo Picasso par Christian Zervos,’ known by many simply as “the Zervos”, is the most prominent and trusted catalogue raisonne of Picasso’s ( 1895–1972 ) paintings and drawings
The Zervos comprises 33 volumes and more than 16,000 images, and was the result of an intense four-decade ( 1932 to 1978 ) collaboration between Picasso and Christian Zervos.
There are many catalogs of Picasso’s work, but art dealers tend to speak of the Zervos, prepared and published by Cahiers d’Art founder Christian Zervos in direct collaboration with Picasso , with reverence
“It’s the go-to catalog for Picasso,” said Larry Gagosian, whose gallery has mounted four Picasso shows and will be selling the book as well.
“Some days Picasso painted four or five paintings – in one day – and that’s all chronicled,” he added. “The actual date is noted in the index. You get a sense of how he worked on a given day or week or period, how one style morphed into another.”
Staffan Ahrenberg, a Swedish collector of contemporary art, was walking along Rue du Dragon in Paris one day in 2010 when he noticed Cahiers d’Art, had been resurrected.
Staffan was surprised to see that the defunct publication still had an address.
He recalled seeing Cahiers’ lovingly designed art books, including a famous catalog of Picasso works annotated by Christian Zervos, in his father’s library.
“I walked inside the building on the Rue du Dragon, and into a room with an Alvar Aalto table, upon which sat some back issues of the magazine. A man was sitting on a chair,” he recalls.
“I had an instinct that I had stumbled upon this pure little jewel. The surprise of it just being alive seemed too good to be true.”
Also intriguing was the man’s answer when Ahrenberg asked him who owned Cahiers d’Art: “My brother.”
“Would your brother sell it?” Ahrenberg replied impulsively. “I don’t know where that question came from,” he says today.
But Ahrenberg left the building that day rather unhopeful. “The man told me he didn’t know. I gave my card to him and asked him to pass it to his brother, and then I left.”
As it turned out, the brothers were the sons of Christian Zervos’ secretary, Marc de Fontbrune, who had acquired the firm after Zervos died in 1970.
The next day, however, Ahrenberg received a phone call from the brother: “I think we should meet,” he said simply. When Ahrenberg returned to the building, this gentleman didn’t greet him with “hello” but said quietly, “You’ve come at the right time.”
Less than two days later, I was back, I went to see “the upstairs brother” – we call him like that because there are two floors at the Cahiers d’art.
He greeted me saying “Your arrival is most convenient, I was thinking of selling the business”.
I said: “Fine! … I’ll buy it.”
Several months of negotiations followed. Once Ahrenberg acquired rights to all of the publishing house’s intellectual property, he knew he was sitting upon an enterprise with vast potential. But it was going to require considerable capital and effort.
“I looked upon it like it was a tech start-up, without the technology,” he says.
By 2011, when Ahrenberg acquired the business, it had not published anything new in decades, he said, and was deriving much of its revenue from reconstituting and selling full sets of the Picasso catalog.
Ahrenberg quickly hired consultants to analyze the industry. “After a month of it I felt like taking a cyanide pill,” he said. “It was so depressing — everyone kept asking me if it was a philanthropic exercise.”
He recruited Samuel Keller, the well-connected director of the Beyeler Foundation in Switzerland, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, an influential Swiss curator, to serve as co-editors.
Mr. Ahrenberg said the subscription list would help the company market the Picasso catalog. Another factor working in Mr. Ahrenberg’s favor is that the research on the artworks, the most expensive element of creating a catalogue raisonné, is
Ahrenberg is also relaunching the publishing house and gallery. ‘I feel privileged to have been able to buy it,’ he says. ‘It was a sleeping beauty that was possible to revive, and where nothing had to be corrected.
Ahrenberg has also opened an additional gallery space dedicated to editions across the street, at 15 rue du Dragon and has prepared a full slate of publishing projects including the continuation of the Cahiers d’Art magazine, catalogues raisonnés, standard and limited edition books, and prints.
Ahrenberg says that, “Christian Zervos dedicated his life to Picasso, and it is our great honor to continue the Zervos/Picasso story and legacy. I think it is essential for the Zervos to be back in print and available to collectors, scholars and the trade.”
The company’s relationship with Picasso’s family had petered out a few years after the artist died without a will in 1973.
“When Picasso died, it was just total chaos,” said Richardson, the Picasso biographer, noting that children of the artist who were born out of wedlock fought for years to gain the legal right to share in his estate.
Later this year, Ahrenberg plans to republish the entire 33-volume Pablo Picasso, after he obtained the blessings of Claude Picasso.
An undertaking of epic proportions, the new edition will offer corrections from the original edition and a translation into English for the first time, something Ahrenberg said that Zervos himself had wanted to do.
The publishing company has announced that the Zervos will be reprinted and distributed exclusively through the Sotheby’s Auction House and the Cahiers d’Art gallery with orders shipping around Christmas this year.
Sotheby’s will also be involved in selling the catalog by singling out top international art collectors, especially anyone who has bought or sold a Picaasso at auction.
“Picasso and Zervos could have done color,” said Carmen Gimeenez, a Picasso scholar and curator of 20thcentury art at Guggenheim Museum. “Picasso wanted to do it in black-and white. Color is always false.”
The re-issued set will be true to the original – in black and white.
It will take four months to print.
The pre-order price will be $15,000 for the set; upon the work’s release, it will climb to $20,000. You can pre order here
While the price tags may startle, in Mr. Ahrenberg’s view they are “irrelevant” to his target audience: “You can’t buy anything original by Picasso for less than $500,000, or maybe a couple hundred thousand dollars, that’s any good,” he said in an interview in Manhattan.
And he says, the price is a relative bargain compared with vintage sets, which themselves are collector’s items routinely selling for around $60,000 at auction and going for close to $200,000 in pristine condition.
About Cahiers d’Art
Cahiers d’Art is one of the world’s most distinguished publishers of the visual arts. Cahiers d’Art editions are among the most remarkable publications of the 20th century, and are sought after by art collectors and book collectors worldwide.
Founded in 1926 by the art critic Christian Zervos at 14 rue du Dragon in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Cahiers d’Art was a revue, publishing house and gallery that collaborated with artists such as Joan Miró, Matisse and Alexander Calder before the final issue in 1960.
Zervos worked directly with artists and their estates to create a revue, books, limited edition books and prints, and catalogue raisonnés – each of which is a celebration of the artist’s individual character and vision.
Cahiers d’Art was entirely unique: a journal of contemporary art defined by its combination of striking typography and layout, abundant photography, and juxtaposition of ancient and modern art, where writers like Tristan Tzara, Paul Éluard, René Char, Ernest Hemingway and Samuel Beckett often replaced the usual art critics.
The early days of Cahiers d’Art coincided with the advent of the Bauhaus, Le Corbusier, of Klee and Kandinsky, and with Zervos’s exploration of primitive art and Cycladic archaeology.
From 1930 until the outbreak of World War II, the journal concentrated on the work of Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Léger, Ernst, Arp, Calder and Giacometti, amongst others.
By 1932, Cahiers d’Art had published the first volume of the Picasso Catalogue, a project that would become a life’s work, prepared by Zervos together with Picasso.
Artist collaborations with Cahiers d’Art often yielded original artwork.
Joan Miró’s 1934 pochoirs and his Aidez L’Espagne, produced in 1937, and Marcel Duchamp’s Fluttering Heart of 1936, perhaps the world’s first example of kinetic art, are some of the most iconic images ever produced by these two artists.
Christian and Yvonne Zervos organized between two and five exhibitions per year between 1932 and 1970 at the Cahiers d’Art gallery space, including the work of Calder, González, Tanguy, Laurens and Brauner.
By 1960, Christian Zervos had published 97 issues of the Cahiers d’Art magazine and more than 50 books, including monographs on El Greco, Matisse, Man Ray, and African and Mesopotamian Art, as well as collections of poems by Paul Éluard and André Breton.
Zervos’s work on the Picasso Catalogue continued from 1932 until his death in Paris in 1970.
The legendary Cahiers d’Art revue has now been reborn after a hiatus of more than half a century
Between 1926 and 1960 under the editorial guidance of its founder Christian Zervos, and headquartered at 14 rue du Dragon, Paris, ninety-seven issues of the legendary Cahiers d’Art revue were released.
Cahiers d’Art maintains the values and practices associated with the legacy of Christian Zervos, who built direct relationships with many of the most important artists of the 20th century, and insisted always on the highest standards of production quality.
In October 2012 the Revue appeared in both french and english for the first time.
On the occasion of its re-launch in October 2012, Ahrenberg has published the first edition of the magazine since 1960, in collaboration with curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and former Art Basel director Sam Keller as his co-editors.
The first magazine uses the original typography and features a cover and works by Ellsworth Kelley ( aged 90) , Cyprien Gaillard, Sarah Morris, Adrian Villar Rojas, and the architecture of Oscar Niemeyer.
Last fall the team also revived the storied Cahiers d’Art journal, which had published works by Hemingway and Beckett, with a cover and a lithograph by the artist Ellsworth Kelly, who turns 90 this month
Following the long tradition of outstanding contributors to Cahiers d’Art such as Ernest Hemingway and Samuel Beckett, the first issue features articles and interviews by Tadao Ando, Obrist, and Yve-Alain Bois, among others.
“We had a strong reaction to the issue and it is growing faster than we thought. In keeping with the way Zervos operated, we will release one to three issues a year, but without any specific schedule, and we will work with a lead artist in every issue. It’s interesting what comes out of these collaborations.”
Arhrenberg has also published the book Calder by Matter, organized in collaboration with the Calder Foundation.
Photographer and graphic designer Herbert Matter, a close friend of Alexander Calder, had the privilege of photographing the artist’s sculptures at different stages of their realization and capturing Calder at work in his studios and in his Roxbury, Connecticut, home.
Calder by Matter offers a new perspective on the sculptor’s life and work, presenting over 300 photographs of the artist and his family, many of which are previously unpublished.
Available in a Standard Edition as well as a Collector’s Edition (limited edition of 250 copies), Calder by Matter includes original essays by esteemed art critic and Calder biographer Jed Perl, Calder Foundation President and Calder grandson Alexander S. C. Rower (editor of the publication), and Matter student and colleague John T. Hill (designer of the publication).
About Christian Zervos
1889 : Born Kristos Zervos in Greece.
1910 : Arrival of Zervos in Paris.
1918 : Defense of his thesis in philosophy at the Sorbonne.
1923 : He began working for Albert Morancé edition and two of its periodicals, the Art of today and the Arts of the House.
Meeting with Picasso.
1925 Zervos began writing art articles for the magazine L’Art d’Aujourd ‘Hui
1926 : Creation of the magazine Cahiers d’art.
1928 : In January, accompanied by Alfred Flechtheim, a German gallery owner, he went to Dessau to meet Klee and Kandinsky.
Encounter with Yvonne.
1931 : In the series of monographs published by Cahiers d’art, seems as devoted to Kandinsky, with texts by Will Grohmann German art historian.
1932 : Marriage with Yvonne Marion [Zervos] (1905-70) who ran an art gallery next to her husband’s shop
Publication of the first volume of the catalogue of Picasso.
1934 : Opening of the Cahiers d’art Gallery in the premises of the editions: are presented paintings by Kandinsky.
1937 : Purchase from the farm to the chute, in the commune of Vézelay where the Zervos ration during the war.
1939 : Yvonne opens the May Gallery (furniture Architectural facilities). She exhibited Léger, Picasso, Brauner during the war years.
World War II interrupted many of Zervos’ publishing projects, including the Cahiers, which suspended 1941-43, resuming in 1944 to last until the end of his life
1940 : After having tried unsuccessfully to continue his editing work, Zervos suspends publication of its journal. The Zervos moved to Vézelay.
1945 : Resumption of the publication of the magazine.
1947 : The Zervos organize a first exhibition at the Palace of the Popes in Avignon where they show paintings and contemporary sculptures.
1948 : Yvonne embarks on film production by collaborating in the René CharSurles Hauteurs film to be released, without success, the following year.
1960 : Publication of the last issue of Cahiers d’art.
1970 : The Zervos organizea Picasso exhibition at the Palace of the popes of Avignon. Yvonne will not have time to see the result of this work, she died in January. The exhibition opens May1.
Christian Zervos died in September and bequeathed his house in the town of Vezelay.
1979 : Purchase of the bookstore – Gallery Cahiersd’art by Yves de Fontebrune, son of the Chief collaborator of Zervos.
1989 : Beginning of the constitution of the Fund the Kandinsky library art books.
About Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso was born on October 25, 1881, in Málaga, Spain.
The son of an academic painter, José Ruiz Blanco, he began to draw at an early age.
In 1895, the Picasso family moved to Barcelona.
It was there that Pablo studied at La Lonja, the local academy of fine arts.
His association with the patrons of the café Els Quatre Gats in the late 1890s was crucial to his early artistic development in that the café was a nexus of social life among artists, authors, musicians, and the like, as well as the site of several music performances and tertulias (‘literary gatherings’).
In 1900, Pablo Picasso’s first exhibition took place in Barcelona, and in the fall of the same year he visited Paris for the first time.
It was in Paris where he observed the paintings of Edouard Manet, Gustave Courbet, and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec.
He settled there in April 1904, and soon his circle of friends included the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, writer Max Jacob, Gertrude and Leo Stein, and art dealers Ambroise Vollard and Berthe Weill.
Picasso’s visual style and choice of subject matter developed dramatically over a short period of time.
The time between 1901 and 1904 has come be known as his ‘Blue Period,’ 1905 his ‘Rose Period,’ from 1908 to 1911 his Analytic Cubist phase, and from 1912 forward his Synthetic Cubist phase.
The Blue Period is named for Picasso’s color palette at the time, and is distinguished by its subject matter: vagrants, outcasts, prostitutes, and otherwise marginalized people.
The Rose Period marked a brightening of Picasso’s palette: pinks, beiges, roses, and light blues.
His choice of subject matter followed suit: clowns, harlequins, and saltimbanques (‘circus people’).
Picasso’s name is synonymous with the development of Cubism, which is the permutation of several artistic trends and of the styles of certain artists.
Through Gertrude and Leo Stein, Picasso knew Henri Matisse, who had stirred audiences in 1905 with paintings displaying harsh, dissonant colors. Critics chided Matisse’s paintings, while Picasso admired them. He also admired the so-called ‘primitive’ works of Henri Rousseau.
While in Paris, Picasso frequented the Musée d’Ethnographie du Trocadéro, where he saw works of indigenous African art, and in Spain discovered ancient Iberian sculpture.
Through a collaboration with the artist Georges Braque, Picasso gradually combined his influences into a wholly original style, which fragmented three-dimensional forms into abstract geometric shapes that intertwined and overlapped each other.
His first major Cubist work was the renowned Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, which he completed in 1907 but didn’t not show to anyone until 1916.
By 1936, the Spanish Civil War affected Pablo Picasso immensely, and the following year he completed Guernica, which depicts the bombing of the Spanish city of the same name.
Picasso’s association with the Communist Party began in 1944, and in the latter half of the decade he lived in the southern France.
Among the large number of Picasso exhibitions that were held during the artist’s lifetime, those at Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1939 and at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in 1955 were the most significant.
In 1961, the artist married Jacqueline Roque, and they moved to the town of Mougins.
He continued to work in painting, drawing, prints, ceramics, and sculpture there until his death on April 8, 1973.
About Steffan Ahrenberg
Born in Sweden in 1958, Staffan Ahrenberg maintains a long family tradition of collecting art.
His father, Theodor (‘Teto’) Ahrenberg (1912–89), built one of the largest collections of modern and contemporary art in northern Europe, including a significant number of works by Picasso, Matisse, and Le Corbusier.
In 1962, four years after Staffan was born in Stockholm, his father, Theodor Ahrenberg, relocated his family to Switzerland.
Cahiers was a name he had known practically since his infancy – it appeared on countless publications that arrived at his home, situated in the idyllic village of Chexbres, near Lausanne.
The elder Ahrenberg, a shipping and commodities magnate, had already assembled one of the largest collections of Modern and contemporary art in Northern Europe.
Having always enjoyed meeting and spending time with artists, Theodor equipped his new estate with a guesthouse and studio where many illustrious artists were invited to take up residencies.
“So I grew up with constant interactions with fascinating people doing strange things,” recalls Staffan. “Fontana, Christo, Tinguely, Niki de Saint Phalle and Mark Tobey were some of the artists who stayed with us. It was very intense.”
Many other celebrated artists came to the family’s home. “I have a picture of Picasso holding me when I was two years old,” he says.
Staffan attended university in Lausanne but did not graduate.
Instead, at 20, he went to work for eminent movie producer Alexander Salkind. The son of Russian émigrés, Salkind is best known for acquiring the Superman franchise in the 1970s.
“I worked for him for three years. That was my real university. He was based in Paris but didn’t really have an office. He liked to work out of old hotel lobbies, but from them he produced some of the biggest Hollywood films ever made, and he invented the concept of packaging movies and ‘preselling’ them to studios.”
Ahrenberg subsequently moved to Los Angeles, where he became a successful independent producer himself.
His films included The Quiet American, which earned an Oscar nomination for Michael Caine, and Total Eclipse, which featured the then little-known Leonardo DiCaprio, playing French poet Arthur Rimbaud.
All the while, the producer had been collecting art. He began by acquiring geometrical art from the 1950s by artists such as Vasarely and Albers.
Today, his collection includes artists ranging from Matisse and Picasso to Serra and Kippenberger.
On some occasions, Ahrenberg was able to mix art and film, such as with Johnny Mnemonic, a 1995 movie he produced that starred Keanu Reeves, which was directed by Robert Longo, an artist he collected.
“For 30 years I was looking for a way to be actively involved in the art world professionally, without being a dealer.”
For Ahrenberg, who is now based in Vevey, Switzerland, his 2011 acquisition of Cahiers d’Art fulfilled a longtime wish.
Ahrenberg has assembled a world-class team to revive Cahiers d’Art, including co-editors Sam Keller, Director of the Beyeler Foundation and former Director of Art Basel, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, renowned art historian and Director of International Projects at the Serpentine Gallery.
“Cahier d’Art is a dream project that we have enthusiastically committed time and capital to.
It’s the same investment that one would make to a high-tech startup, but on high quality paper as an object beyond trends. We have a lot of fun putting together each issue, which is very unique, and rely on our instincts on what will speak to our audience,” says Ahrenberg.
“It’s taken over my life. It’s unbelievable how much you can do with it,” says Ahrenberg exuberantly of the reborn firm. “I had no idea how much Cahiers meant to people. There’s a love factor here.”