New Obstacle for Picasso’s Daughter in Sculpture Dispute
The French Court has rejected her plea.
A French court has turned down a plea by Maya Widmaier-Picasso, the 80-year-old daughter of Pablo Picasso, to void a seizure order for the 1931 Picasso bust of her mother, Marie-Thérèse Walter, the New York Times reports. The sculpture is the subject of a legal battle over ownership between mega-dealer Larry Gagosian and Pelham Europe, representing the Qatari royal family.
The court also ordered Widmaier-Picasso on Wednesday to compensate Pelham €25,000 (about $28,000) for the incurred court costs. In addition to the French court, legal actions surrounding the sculpture, titled Bust of a Woman, are in place in the US and Switzerland, where Pelham allegedly struck a deal on behalf of the Qatari royals in November 2014.
According to the NYT, Pelham sought to seize the sculpture in May 2015 from Widmaier-Picasso’s Paris residence, but the artwork could not be located there. Some five months later, the bust was spotted at the MoMA exhibition dedicated to Picasso’s sculptures, which closed recently.
Pelham, an advisory firm run by former Christie’s Impressionist and Modern head, Guy Bennet, took the case to court in November 2015, claiming that Widmaier-Picasso had agreed to sell the work to the Qatari royals for $42 million a year earlier, contending that their agreement stipulated a payment in three instalments. The advisory firm accused Widmaier-Picasso of repudiating the contract shortly before the final instalment was due.
But in January, Larry Gagosian filed a counter-suit, also claiming ownership of the artwork. Gagosian maintains that he bought the sculpture for $106 million—a record price for a Picasso sculpture—from Maya Widmaier-Picasso and her daughter, Diana, in May 2015. The mega-dealer subsequently sold the bust to billionaire Leon Black, who lent it to the MoMA for the museum survey.
In early February, Maya Widmaier-Picasso denied any wrongdoing in a statement issued by her lawyer, Thaddeus Stauber. She dismissed allegations that she had sold the bust twice, and claimed that she sold it to Gagosian.
Due to the legal dispute, the plaster bust was not returned to collector Leon Black after the MoMA show has ended. Instead, Gagosian and the Qataris have reached a temporary agreement for the statue to be kept in the custody of the Gagosian Gallery while the rightful owner of the piece is being determined by Manhattan federal court.
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