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In the Air – Art+Auction's Gossip Column

Beyond the Moon and Mars: Mercury Has a Picasso Crater

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Though the United States and Russia appear poised to undertake a sequel to the Cold War’s space race — at least this time without the implied threat of nuclear annihilation from orbit, or so they claim — with politicians on both sides of the former Iron Curtain vying to establish a permanent lunar outpost first, it turns out that the father of Cubism Pablo Picasso, an early adopter of innumerable new developments artistic and otherwise, has gone above and beyond the superpowers’ space programs. Just left of center in the above satellite photo of Mercury’s surface recently released by NASA is Picasso Crater.

The image was taken by the American space agency’s MESSENGER spacecraft on January 10, using a Narrow Angle Camera that facilitates the taking of close-up photographs of the sweltering planet’s surface.

While the boorish NASA news service describes the Picasso Crater’s most distinctive feature as a “comma-shaped pit on its floor,” connoisseurs of the Spanish artist’s distinctive brand of analytic Cubism will recognize the mark as one of his trademark triangular noses, making the Picasso Crater not a mere abstract space oddity, but quite possibly the largest portrait ever created. Score another (posthumous) first for Picasso. We look forward to seeing the Picasso Crater installed in Larry Gagosian’s next thematic Picasso retrospective.

— Benjamin Sutton

(Image courtesy NASA)

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