Sunday, December 12, 2010

First the former electrician, now the chauffeur. Just how generous was Picasso?

FRANCE. When I read about the French government's seizure of 271 Picassos worth an estimated $79 million from the artist's former electrician pending investigation of their provenance, I initially decided not to cover the story because the likelihood of 271 never-before-seen authentic Picassos making their way into the market seemed so small. Undoubtedly, the story would make a fascinating civil and/or criminal case -- Le Guennec was Picasso's electrician for just 3 years and there are allegedly no written records meaning the decision will ultimately rest on an assessment of the artist's practises. However, the fact that only one of the 271 works was signed and dated, combined with the peculiarity of it all, suggested to me that only a very mild interest by the art market was warranted at this stage.

Then a second related story came to light -- the unexpected withdrawal from auction of several Picassos given by the artist to his former chauffeur and bequeathed to his wife, Jacqueline Bresnu, cousin of Le Guennec -- and I knew then that I had to cover both! The heirs, which include Le Guennec and his wife, decided to postpone the sale unexpectedly without giving any explanation. ARTINFO reports: "Drouot auctioneer Pierre Blanchet told Libération that "there is no problem with provenance or authentication" and that "the sale will probably take place in another three months." However, it is not known whether Claude Picasso, the only heir recognized by the Picasso Administration to have the authority to sign certificates of authenticity [meaning he holds the droit morales for the artist] authenticated the Bresnu collection. Maya Widmaier-Picasso, the artist's daughter, participated in writing the catalogue for the Bresnu sale, copies of which are now."

The market loves a good story and it doesn't get much better than this so expect higher prices than would otherwise be the case if and when any of these works make it to auction.

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