Picasso trove surfaces in France
A retired French electrician who worked for the master says a trunk full of 271 works, worth $80 million, was a gift. The late artist's heirs suspect theft.http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/flatpages/entertainment/picasso.html
Picasso in Seattle
An exhibit of more than 150 works by Pablo Picasso can be seen at the Seattle Art Museum. "Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris" will be on display through Jan. 17 before traveling to San Francisco and Richmond, Va.
Seattle Times staff
PARIS — Pablo Picasso gave them as a gift. Or did he?
A retired electrician has surfaced with 271 previously unknown works by one of the 20th century's most celebrated artists. Picasso's heirs are claiming theft, and the art world is savoring what appears to be an authentic find.
Pierre Le Guennec, 71, claims to have worked at three of Picasso's properties in southern France: a villa in Cannes, a château in Vauvenarges and a farmhouse in Mougins, where Picasso died in 1973. The French daily Libération, which broke the story Monday, said Le Guennec had installed a security alarm system for Picasso at the farmhouse.
Le Guennec, in an interview with France-2 TV outside his modest home, said he was given the trunk by Picasso's second wife and most-painted muse, Jacqueline Roque.
"Madame gave them to me," he said. "And if she gave them to me, he had to be aware of it." Roque died in 1986.
Le Guennec and his wife, Danielle, 68, boarded a Paris-bound train in September with a suitcase full of works, including several watercolors, dozens of lithographs, more than 200 sketches and nine Cubist collages, in the hopes of having the artworks authenticated by Claude Ruiz-Picasso, the artist's son and the administrator of the Picasso estate.
Suspecting the works were stolen, Ruiz-Picasso contacted a lawyer, who on Sept. 23 filed a lawsuit that claims the works were "stolen goods"; investigators seized the art from the Guennecs' home in southern France two weeks later. The inquiry is continuing, and it is unclear what will become of the artworks.
The cache dates from 1900 to 1932, an intensely creative period for Picasso after he moved from Barcelona, Spain, to Paris.
"It's a big surprise both in terms of the numbers and the quality ... (of works) appearing from one day to the next," said Anne Baldassari, president of the Picasso Museum in Paris. "We are moved, surprised, intrigued — firstly moved, to have found an uninventoried stash of Picasso works."
Among them are a richly colored hand study; a sketch of his first wife, Russian ballerina Olga Khokhlova, resting an elbow in a seated pose; and a collage of a pipe and bottle.
The collage and eight others in the stash alone are worth more than $52 million, Picasso's estate says. All of the art, valued at about $80 million, is now held by the French agency charged with battling illegal traffic in cultural items.
"We've never seen anything like this with regard to Picasso," said Jean-Jacques Neuer, a lawyer for Picasso's estate. "It's completely stupefying."
"There is no debate over the authenticity of the works," he added. "There is no possible doubt."
Picasso was known as an inveterate collector of the artifacts and detritus of day-to-day life and held particularly tightly to his artworks; his heirs say they doubt he could have parted with such a sizable collection.
"He kept everything: letters, Métro tickets, tickets for the theater or bullfights," Ruiz-Picasso told Libération. He said many of the 271 pieces were undated.
"He always dated, signed and dedicated his gifts," Ruiz-Picasso said. "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."
Beyond the question of how the Guennecs obtained the works, it remains unclear how it was possible for such a sizable cache of Picasso art to have gone unrecorded in the first place.
Unknown works by the master have surfaced occasionally, said Christine Pinault, an official at the Picasso Administration, the organization that manages the Picasso estate. He produced nearly 40,000 works and offered many to friends and admirers. But never has such a concentration come to light.
"There are only questions in this whole story, for the moment," said Pinault, who viewed the collection in September. "Everyone is wondering how such a thing could happen."
Danielle Le Guennec said the box of Picassos had been in the garage of her home for 30 years. But Pierre Le Guennec recently underwent major cancer surgery, and they began to worry about their children's inheritance, she said. And the box came out so she could authenticate its contents.
The couple didn't intend to sell the art, she said.
"This was a gift," she said. "We aren't thieves. We didn't do anything wrong."
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.