A Pablo Picasso work unearthed in the recent discovery of 217 of the late artist’s work in Paris, France. Image courtesy The Telegraph.
In September, a couple boarded a train to Paris with a suitcase full of works by Pablo Picasso, including, as the New York Times reports, “several watercolors, dozens of lithographs, more than 200 sketches and 9 Cubist collages, in the hopes of having it authenticated by Claude Ruiz-Picasso, the artist’s son and the administrator of the Picasso estate.” The trip was at the request of the artist’s son after reading a letter Mr. Le Guennec had sent him requesting authentication.
The works’ owners are Pierre Le Guennec, 71, and his wife Danielle, 68. Mr. Le Guennec had worked as an electrician at three of the famed Spanish-born artists’s properties in the French Riviera in the early 1970s. The couple had kept the works in their garage for the past thirty plus years, but after Mr. Le Guennec’s recent surgery, they thought it best to evaluate the works for their children’s inheritance.
Instead of giving the authentication the Le Guennecs anticipated, Mr. Ruiz-Picasso contacted the Fight Against Traffic in Cultural Goods and his family’s lawyer, Mr. Jean-Jacques Neuer. Among heirs Mr. Neuer represents are Mr. Ruiz-Picasso, Picasso’s stepdaughter Catherine Hutin-Blay, and four others. A law suit was filed on September 23 claiming the works as stolen goods. Two weeks later, on October 5, the Le Guennecs were stunned to find the artworks seized from their home by police.
Pierre Le Guennec, retired electrician to Picasso, from whose house the works were seized by French police. Image courtesy The Guardian.
More story, images, and video links after the jump…
Pablo Picasso in front of one of his paintings. Image courtesy The Telegraph.
Many of the works, which date from 1900 – 1932, are unsigned and undated, but this did not raise suspicion in minds of the family’s or their lawyer, who defend the works’ authenticity. “There is no debate over the authenticity of the works,” stated Mr. Neuer. “There is no possible doubt.”
The two men were, however, shocked at the quantity of works unearthed. Although Picasso was tremendously prolific, having produced an estimated 40,000 works in his lifetime, a discovery of this size is unprecedented. The works’ lack of previous documentation is cause for reserve, causing Mr. Ruiz-Picasso to think they may have been taken from the artist’s studio. According to the family’s lawyers, Picasso kept very tight inventory and control over each of his works, and rarely parted with works without documenting it. According to the New York Times, Mr. Ruiz-Picasso stated, “He always dated, signed and dedicated his gifts. I leave it to the justice system to shed light on the matter. We ourselves are certainly not acting for our own profit. We’re not in need.” In a statement to the French newspaper Liberation on Monday, Mr. Ruiz-Picasso stated, “To give away such a large quantity, that’s unheard of. It doesn’t hold water. This was part of his life.”
Claude Ruiz-Picasso, the late artist’s son, who is suing Mr. Le Guennec over the works’ ownership. Image courtesy The Telegraph.
Picasso’s estate is managed by the Picasso Administration, whose head spokesperson, Christine Pinault, recognizes that unknown works by the artist have surfaced occasionally in the past. But never has such a sizeable collection come to light: “There are only questions in this whole story, for the moment,” Ms. Pinault said to the New York Times. “Everyone is wondering how such a thing could happen.” The estate estimates the works to be worth at least $78 million.
Jean-Jacques Neuer, the lawyer on the case. Image courtesy The Telegraph.
The couple denies that they did any wrong, but when Mr. Le Guennec’s story changed during investigation, some questions were raised. Initially, Mr. Le Guennec claimed that Picasso had given them directly to him as a gift. Later, however, he related that the works were given to him by Picasso’s second wife Jacqueline Roque (1927-1986) for installing an alarm system on one of the properties. Picasso himself died in April of 1973, making him 90 years old at the time Mr. Le Guennec claims he was given the works. In a statement to the Washington Post, Danielle Le Guennec said, “My husband was well-regarded by the master. [Claude Ruiz-Picasso has] put a knife in our back, taken us to court and accused us of theft – he’ll have to prove it.”
The works are currently being held in a vault in Nanterre, outside Paris at France’s Central Office for the Fight against Traffic in Cultural Goods, which is part of the Interior Ministry of France. Their fate remains unclear.
A Picasso work recently revealed to be in Le Guennec’s collection. Image courtesy The Telegraph.
One of Picasso’s sketchbooks of which Le Guennec was in possession. Image courtesy The Telegraph.
A Picasso work in dispute. Image courtesy The Telegraph.
A sketch of Picasso’s first wife, Olga, from Le Guennec’s garage. Image courtesy The Telegraph.
A vibrant Picasso sketch from Le Guennec’s trove. Image courtesy The Telegraph.
Two drawings by Picasso. Image courtesy The Telegraph.
One of the drawings whose ownership is in dispute. Image courtesy The Telegraph.
- J. Lindblad
Trove of Picassos Surface, So Do Questions [New York Times]
Hundreds of unknown Picasso works discovered in Paris [The Guardian]
Picasso trove turns up in France [The Washington Post]
VIDEO: Picasso’s electrician reveals artist’s ‘treasure trove’ [BBC News]
VIDEO: The retired electrician and the Picasso haul [The Independent]
VIDEO: [Associated Press]
271 unknown Pablo Picasso paintings and drawings discovered in France [The Telegraph]