HONG KONG - Ever the innovator, Pablo Picasso often turned to different media as a means of experimentation. During the 1950s and 60s, he commissioned François Hugo, great- grandson of the eminent French writer Victor Hugo and a master-craftsman himself, to execute a series of plates, dishes and medallions in gold and silver after the artist’s original models and designs conceived in ceramics.

Pablo Picasso, A Complete Set of Twenty-Four Silver Plates. Estimate: HK$12–18 million / US$1.55–2.33 million

Throughout his entire oeuvre, Picasso created a large volume of ceramics, but only crafted silver plates in 24 designs. When the first plates were completed, Picasso originally intended to keep them for himself and resorted to hiding them from the public, occasionally showing them to a few friends who visited his studio. Even after the artist had at last, in 1967, authorised François Hugo to make a small, numbered edition of each plate for sale, the specimens were limited to a small circle of connoisseurs and friends. As such, the public was largely unaware of the existence of such plates until they were shown for the very first time at Picasso’s 1977 solo exhibition Picasso – 19 silver platters at London’s Lever Galleries and Paris’s Galerie Matignon. The blockbuster exhibition became a major milestone in the artist’s career; not only did it put Picasso back on the map of international stardom, but the public debut of the silver plates raised newfound appreciation for the importance of the artist’s non-painting works.

Pablo Picasso and François Hugo in Cannes, 1960. Photo courtesy of Pierre Hugo © Succession Picasso 2016

On 23 June Sotheby’s Hong Kong will offer, for the first time worldwide, a complete set of 24 silver plates by Picasso. The master’s remarkable sense of freedom and innovation are evident in the prominent designs of these silver plates, whose motifs are inspired by three distinct themes such as Henri Matisse, bullfights and Jacqueline Roque – his second wife and muse. Yet in their seductive shapes, and celebration of figures, these works perfectly reflect the artist’s lifelong passion for cracking material mysteries in order to find new means of expression.

Hero image: Pablo Picasso in Vallauris, in Madoura workshop, c.1948, b/w photo. Photo by Michel Sima / Bridgeman Images© Succession Picasso 2016