Picasso is in the news. Isn't he always? This time, it's about how trendy he is. Consider this: In 1980, close to a million people packed the Museum of Modern Art in New York to see a retrospective of his work. Every gallery was jammed with visitors peering at 970 exhibit examples. And now, in the 21st century, there are signs that he's more popular than ever, except at Fox News. More about that in a moment.

The most expensive painting on earth

Art economist Roman Krauss told Art News magazine that it doesn't matter if the art market is up or down, the Spanish master's art sells high: “Picasso seems to be a strong blue-chip investment,” he said.

No kidding! Three years ago, his painting “Les femmes d'Alger” (Women Of Algiers - four prostitutes in a brothel sharing a hookah pipe filled with hashish) - broke all records when it sold for $179.3 million after being on the auction block for only eleven minutes. To give you an idea of how stupendous the was, mull this over: the painting is one of a 15-work series that sold with the group in 1956 for $212,500. The record-breaking version sold sky-high all by itself.

Fox News offends

Of course, there's more to “Women of Algiers” than being the priciest painting ever. I'll get to the “more” as soon as I finish with Fox News' part in this story. In reporting the sale, the company's New York affiliate station chose to edit the news by making part of the painting indistinct (the breasts) fearing that nudity would offend.

But the alteration offended anyway and the station was compelled by public demand to air the painting again – un-edited.

Is 'Women of Algiers' an anti-war painting?

As I see it, Picasso's big seller is more about politics than prurience. The main figure doesn't seem seductive, she looks like a sentry, a lookout for her countrymen fighting French colonialism.

It was a fight waged while Picasso made the painting. Algeria was a colony of France battling for its freedom. The conflict raged for eight years and reports ran constantly in the French press. Picasso, sensitive to oppression since Germany bombed Guernica in his native land to smithereens, likely sympathized with the Algerians.

Shades of 'Lady Liberty'

My view is not an accepted view. “Women of Algiers” has long been deemed a modern version of Delacroix' “Women of Algiers in their apartment.” But I see a connection between the Picasso work and another painting by Delacroix - “Lady Liberty Leading the People,” which describes a bare-breasted woman raising the tricolors of the French flag with the inherent message that Lady Liberty is the mother of her people. Opinion in the art world remains divided on how much the war held sway over Picasso as he painted this work. But I'm persuaded that the war had to have influenced him and the featured females in the painting look the part of a warrior. Should the painting be the most expensive in the world?

I don't know. How much is freedom worth?

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