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  • Writer's pictureVan Weyenbergh Fine Art

The art authentication of a recovered Picasso stolen 20 years ago , could be denied.

Stolen in 1999 on a yacht moored in Antibes France, a Portrait of Dora Maar by Picasso, reappears twenty years later in Amsterdam, apparently after having served as warranty for arms and drugs traffickers ... But Picasso Administration issues reservations, Christine Pinault, the assistant of Claude Picasso, is cautious.

The facts:

Saturday, March 6, 1999. Panic aboard yacht Coral Island. On this 240’ mega yacht belonging to a Saudi Sheikh and moored for four days at Antibes port, a Picasso painting is missing. With the characteristics of the Cubist period, Dora Maar reveals herself in a bust, wearing an imposing hat. Dora Maar a photographer, close to the surrealist movement, was the mistress and the muse of Picasso when, on April 26, 1938, he painted this portrait with clear colors, between multiple variants of her portraits. The Nice antenna of the judicial police of Marseille does not discard any lead. The painting was supposed to leave for London, the time of an exhibition, among other works exhibited on the boat. Including another smaller Picasso. Investigators discovered that in the absence of the owner, and most likely without his knowledge, the crew had organized a wild party on the deck of the yacht. Investigators wondered if the canvas was not accidentally damaged, then sent to the bottom of the ocean. A team of divers searched the grounds of the ocean all around the yacht. Searches did not give any result. A reward of $ 600,000 was promised to anyone who could help to find this masterpiece, estimated around 6.4 million euros at the time ( $ 8 M).

Today: Twenty years later (the value of the painting would have quadrupled,) the stolen Picasso makes miraculously surface in the Netherlands. After four years of investigation Arthur Brand, Dutch investigator, claims to have recovered the painting. The painting would have been brought home, "wrapped in a sheet and black garbage bags" , by two individuals working for a businessman , this last one claiming to ignore all of the provenance.

According to Arhur Brand, the painting could have changed hands a dozen times, used as currency in an underground economy. Or, more specifically, as a "guarantee" in transactions between arms dealers and drug traffickers ...For Colonel Berger, commander of the Central Office for the Control of the Trafficking of Cultural Property in Paris, this statement is plausible. "It's difficult to demonstrate it, but we know that this practice exists, with works of art as well as with other goods. " The OCBC ads that often artworks of this value eventually enter discreetly into collections of very wealthy but little regarding art collectors. They know for a fact that the chances of resale are almost zero, Picasso being listed and carefully tracked.

In this case, Colonel Berger does not intend to move forward too fast in this direction. "We should take these elements with caution," he said recalling that Picasso Administration has not authenticated the artwork yet. This is an essential step: "The original owner having been compensated, the insurance company needs a formal proof to put the canvas back on the market. "

"Everyone is excited, everyone is happy and Mr. Brand is actually taken for Indiana Jones. But nobody knows who has authenticated this painting, " observes Christine Pinault, the assistant of Claude Picasso who is only recognized authority to assess the works of his father.

Christine Pinault is surprised by the freshness of the colors, "as if this painting had just been painted," by analyzing the images showing the Dutch investigator at the side of the portrait. "For a painting that, supposedly, was handled in exchange of warranties for 20 years by different gangsters , it looks in a particularly good state.

Finally, the collaborator of Claude Picasso, raises an important point : "That a work of art serves as a deposit in a mafia organization, it is current. But most of the time, when the police dismantle a network and get a painting, we realize that it is a forgery. "

article from Nice - Matin, newspaper

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