$80m In Lost Art May Be Returned To Picasso Family
We reported last December that 271 undocumented works by Pablo Picasso estimated to be worth at least €60 million (£50 million) were discovered in the South of France. Pierre Le Guennec, a retired French electrician and his wife revealed that the paintings drawings and prints, a gift from the artist, had been stored in a garage for over 30 years. The former security system installer, who once worked for Picasso, in his home on the French Riviera, claims that the treasure trove was a gift to him from Madam Jacqueline Picasso, with the knowledge of the master. The estate has other thoughts and the works were seized, pending a lengthily court battle.
The couple have now been arrested and charged with handling stolen goods and face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the crime.The mystery began when Claude Picasso,son of the artist and head of the foundation named after his father received a letter from a man who said he owned original Picasso pieces and wanted to have them verified for authenticity.Picasso convinced the man to bring the collection to Paris, saying he would be unable to verify it from photographs. The man arrived by car with the paintings in a suitcase and laid them out on a table.“I felt a great surprise, naturally, lots of emotion at the discovery of pieces with which we were not familiar. But also a deep disturbance,” he told French daily Liberation. “Many of these pieces were not dated, which means they never should have left the studio.” The cache, dating from the artist’s most creative period from 1900 to 1932, includes previously undocumented notebooks, sketches, plus nine Cubist collages said to be worth €40 million. (£34 million)
Claude Picasso stated, ‘To give away such a large quantity, that’s unheard-of. It doesn’t hold water,’ Catherine Bonnici, clerk to the judges at Grasse Criminal Court, confirmed that the Le Guennecs would appear in court later this month. ‘All of this happened nearly 40 years ago, and key witnesses, including Picasso and his wife, are now dead. Technically we are dealing with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, but it’s going to be a very difficult case to prove.’ Picasso produced more than 100,000 works of art during his long career, but hundreds have been listed as missing, either because they were misplaced, given away or stolen. The estate is now one of the most tightly controlled art industries in the world.