Tags: picasso | art | basel | france

Stolen Picasso Painting Has a Happy Ending

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Sunday, 01 March 2015 08:31 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, smashed ancient statues with sledgehammers this month, hell-bent on destroying what they call non-Islamic ideas, and as the world watched ISIS’ rampage videos in horror, Iraqi civilization and the culture of a people were being obliterated.

Perhaps that is why a relatively minor stolen oil painting by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) received international hoopla from the press after New Jersey custom agents discovered it in a small Federal Express Christmas package labeled as an "art craft/toy."

Alain Seban, the director of the Pompidou Museum in Paris, said the recovery of the Picasso came as a "true comfort" at a time when the cultural world is reeling from terrorists’ destruction of Iraqi statutes.

In December 2014, a stolen small cubist Picasso painting valued at $2.5 million was confiscated by U.S. customs authorities in Newark, N.J. For some reason, no one believed a FedEx "art craft/toy" package labeled "Joyeux Noel" ("Merry Christmas") and valued for $37 was legit. Either custom’s officials were exceedingly savvy, a scanning radar revealed the smuggled piece, or authorities were tipped off.

The 1911, cubistic, 13x18 inch oil-on-canvas, called "La Coiffeuse" ("The Hairdresser") was stolen in 2001 from the National Museums of France, having been bequeathed in 1966 by a former head of the National Museum of France (NMF), George Salles and placed in the Musee d’Art Moderne in Paris.

It was last publicly exhibited in Germany as a loan to the Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung before it was returned to France and placed at the Centre George Pompidou Museum in Paris.

When there was a request to loan out the painting in 2001, Centre Pompidou authorities discovered the painting was missing from a storage room and the French government declared it stolen. Thirteen years passed before it was seen again.

On Dec. 17, 2014, man identified as "Robert" shipped the painting from Belgium to a climate controlled warehouse in Long Island City, part of the NYC borough of Queens. It was then sent to Newark and examined by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and turned over to Homeland Security investigators, who invited French art experts from the Musee Nationale d’Art Moderne to examine it at a Long Island City facility. The painting was declared as a missing Picasso masterpiece worth millions of dollars.

U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta E. Lynch filed a civil complaint to forfeit the Picasso and return it to France on Thursday. No arrests have been made yet. Lynch said, "A lost treasure has been found . . . Because of the blatant smuggling in this case . . . forfeiture of the painting will extract it from the grasp of the black market in stolen art so that it can be returned to its rightful owner."

 In 2007, two major Picasso paintings ("Maya with Doll" and "Portrait of Jacqueline") worth over $45 million were stolen at night from the Paris home of the artist’s granddaughter, Diana Widmaier, just across the river from the latest theft. There was no sign of a break-in and the case has not been solved.

Another grandchild, Marina Picasso, had 12 paintings worth 17 million dollars stolen from her French Riviera villa in Cannes 1989. Neither alarm system sounded when the robberies took place and guard dogs were not disturbed. None of the paintings have been recovered.

In 2012, Picasso’s Harlequin Head was stolen from Romania’s National History Museum and never retrieved.

Picasso is the most stolen artist in the world. In December 2014, a Picasso plate was taken off an exhibition wall at Art Basel, Miami, and has not been returned. There are more than 500 missing Picassos listed on the London-based Art Loss Register of stolen art.

The Orsay Museum on the Left Bank of Paris and the Picasso Museum on the Right Bank are robbed frequently. It is believed that insiders working for low pay assist criminals with heists, but because the art is recognizable, it cannot be sold publicly. The majority of Picasso’s stolen works are sold in the black market and robbed by order of a specific person.

Patricia Jobe Pierce is a freelance writer, art historian, art dealer-consultant, certified AAA appraiser, public speaker, photographer and American art authenticator for museums, auction houses and collectors. She graduated from Boston University with a BFA in 1965, is owner and director of Pierce Galleries, Inc. in Nantucket and Hingham, Mass., and is author of many works, including, "Art Collecting & Investing: The Inner Workings and the Underbelly of the Art World." For more of her submissions, Click Here Now.
 
 

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A stolen oil painting by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) received international hoopla from the press after New Jersey custom agents discovered it in a small Federal Express Christmas package labeled as an “art craft/toy.”
picasso, art, basel, france
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2015-31-01
Sunday, 01 March 2015 08:31 AM
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