Pablo Picasso’s famous “Women Of Algiers” sold for a record $179.3 million at Christie’s in New York this week, making it the most expensive painting ever sold at auction.
One cannot deny that it’s a beautiful painting. The vibrant colors jump off the canvas. Its nude forms clash and vibrate and intermingle with the room itself. Picasso is undeniably a master. But we mustn’t let the painting’s superficial beauty overshadow the troubling fact that it promotes impossible standards of cubism in young women.
The ladies in “Women of Algiers” are composed of multiple unnatural colors, missing body parts, and bewildering proportions. One woman’s breasts protrude from her armpits. Three have unidentifiable heads. All have appendages made of nothing but geometric shapes. How is a teenage girl supposed to feel when society tells her that this is the ultimate example of female cubism? She can never look like that, no matter how much she dies her skin or contorts her body.
The ultimate irony is that not even the models who posed for the painting itself have perfect cubist bodies. In real life they look like normal three-dimensional women made of flesh and blood. They have non-cubist flaws, like all of us, but you’d never know it by looking at their painted counterparts.
One of the greatest dangers is how sly Picasso’s alterations and “corrections” are. It’s not immediately clear that the final idealized cubist product we see on the canvas has been heavily altered by paint. A little flattening here, some extra angles there, a few touches of color, some crooked lines, and a dash of forced perspective…it all seems innocuous enough until you realize that countless young girls will strive in vain to look the same.
In fact, much of Picasso’s extensive oeuvre is problematic, and it’s time the art community had a frank discussion about this. The pressure young women face to take upon the impossible geometry of Picasso’s cubist forms starts from the day they are born. Cubist nudes with unattainably crooked spine and leg angles grace the pages of Picassmopolitan Magazine. Picasso’s idealized squished flounder faces dot the walls of the world’s most prestigious museums. It’s disgusting.
The media likes to poke fun, but it’s no wonder countless women feel pressure to surgically place their eyes on the same side of their flattened skulls, to contort their joints to inconceivable angles, and to flatten their edges. We’re all familiar with the procedures, each one nudging the body closer to what society deems conventionally cubist. But at what cost?
How can a young woman develop substantial self-worth when the supposed “ideal” of female cubism that Picasso promotes doesn’t even exist in the material world? As long as we place paintings like “Women Of Algiers” on a pedestal of greatness, we’re telling our very own sisters and daughters that they’re not beautiful unless they’ve got multi-colored geometric breasts that protrude from their armpits, crooked rectangle fingers, jagged extra joints, forced perspective, and flattened curves. We telling them that their flesh-toned bodies that adhere to the laws of euclidean geometry aren’t enough. And that’s a tragedy.
It’s time for the art community to denounce the multi-million dollar sale of Picasso’s “Women Of Algiers"and take a stand against those who would turn all women into two-dimensional multi-colored geometric blobs. That is not true beauty. Period.
True beauty is huge breasts, tiny waist, gravity-defying butt, thigh gap, flat stomach, small nose, big eyes, full lips, perfect white teeth, and flawless skin.