Fate of the Four Seasons’ ‘Picasso Alley’ to Be Decided by State Judge

Pablo Picasso, Le Tricorne (1919). The fragile curtain has hung in the Four Seasons restaurant since 1959, but now the owner of the Seagram Building is trying to move it. Photo: courtesy the Four Seasons, via Facebook.

A massive 19-foot tall Pablo Picasso painting is at the center of a case that is being heard by a state court judge today, reports Reuters. The work, a 1919 theater curtain titled Le Tricorne, has hung in the Four Seasons restaurant in New York’s Seagram Building since 1959.

Now the building’s landlord, art collector Aby Rosen, wants to take it down to repair the wall behind it. The tapestry’s owner, non-profit preservationist group the New York Landmarks Conservancy, contends that moving the artwork could severely damage it. 

Rosen says that the restaurant’s wall is structurally unsound. As reported in the New York Times, an engineering report conducted at his behest found that “the potential to cause damage to the Picasso tapestry exists should the panels shift further or collapse.”

The Conservancy counters by claiming that Rosen, who is the chairman of the New York State Council on the Arts (see What is Collector Aby Rosen Doing as New York’s Arts Council Chairman), wants to remove the curtain because he does not like it, noting in papers filed with the court that he “has previously referred to the Picasso curtain as a ‘schmatte,’ the Yiddish word for rag.”

While the Seagram Building and the restaurant interior were named city landmarks in 1989,  Le Tricorne is explicitly excluded from the designation.

Vanity Fair‘s impassioned plea to leave the curtain in situ makes a convincing case that the piece should stay:

The restaurant was conceived as a kind of gesamtkunstwerk, a complete work of art, with everything in it—architecture, art, furniture, even plates and glasses—conceived as part of a larger whole. Some parts of it, like Richard Lippold’s sculpture of brass rods hanging over the bar and Garth and Ada Louise Huxtable’s tableware, were commissioned for the space; others elements were found. Surely the greatest found item was “Le Tricorne,” the huge 19- by 20-foot curtain, painted by Picasso in 1919 for Serge Diaghilev, the impresario of the Ballets Russes. It has hung since 1959 on the travertine wall that connects the restaurant’s two dining rooms, which is separated from the building’s lobby by a wall of glass, so seeing the curtain isn’t just for restaurant-goers; it is part of the experience of anyone entering the building. It is so identified with the space that the corridor has always been known as “Picasso Alley.”

The painting’s fate now lies in the hands of State Supreme Court Judge Carol Edmead.

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