It may look like a doodle, but the art dealer who is offering it on Costco Wholesale Corp.'s Web site says it's an original Picasso, signed and dated by the artist.

Share story


SEATTLE — It may look like a doodle, but the art dealer who is offering it on Costco Wholesale Corp.’s Web site says it’s an original Picasso, signed and dated by the artist.


The crayon-on-paper drawing of a face, priced at $39,999.99, went up on the site on Jan. 12 and was still listed on Tuesday.


Dealer Jim Tutwiler of Orlando, Fla., says collectors can find bargains when they buy from Costco because its markup is just one-tenth that of traditional galleries. He’s been selling art through Costco for the past decade.


The discount retailing giant may be better known for bulk chicken and cases of soda, but the Costco.com site features an eclectic mix of items, from caskets to computers, saunas to sports equipment.


This is the second and most expensive crayon drawing by Pablo Picasso that Tutwiler has offered through the company.


A customer in San Francisco bought the first for $35,000 in November. A Costco worker helped facilitate the deal by e-mail before the picture even reached the Web site, Tutwiler said.


Tutwiler’s relationship with Costco is similar to consignment: The art has been reserved for Costco to sell for a certain period, and it is shipped from his warehouse when Costco sends him a purchase order. The art dealer declined to discuss his financial dealings with the company further.


Tutwiler described the framed piece as a “doodle” on the blank side of a book jacket. Picasso probably traded it for a new suit or a boat or some service, Tutwiler said.


“He was a barterer. He hated to spend money,” he said.


The drawing is signed and dated Nov. 29, 1970. It is authenticated through a handwritten and signed declaration by Picasso’s daughter, Maya, on a photograph of the drawing.


“She told a little bit of information about where it comes from, in French. If that piece of authentication were lost, the piece would be worthless,” Tutwiler said.


The authenticity of the authentication document was verified by Jerry Bengis of the International Society of Appraisers, said Ginnie Roeglin, a Costco senior vice president.


Next, Tutwiler hopes to offer limited-edition Salvador Dali prints and sculptures on the Costco Web site, but he has had some difficulty importing the Dalis from Europe, where the exporter is not too keen about offering products to compete with galleries there and in Japan.


In addition to offering fine art at competitive prices, Tutwiler said, Costco offers a full refund if the buyer returns the item.


The member who bought the $35,000 Picasso drawing turned down an opportunity to buy the $39,999 piece.


“His wife said it was too similar to the other one,” Tutwiler said.