The Plot Thickens in Bouvier Case, As Picasso Stepdaughter’s Story Is Questioned
Another twist in the Bouvier/Rybolovlev saga
The ongoing legal battle between art dealer Yves Bouvier and Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev is so spectacular that it has made mainstream news as the “Bouvier Affair.” This past summer, the intrigue was kicked up another notch when Picasso’s stepdaughter, Catherine Hutin Blay, became involved in the fray.
Hutin-Blay alleged that paintings, including works by her stepfather that she had entrusted to Bouvier for storage, had been stolen and surreptitiously sold to Rybolovlev without her consent.
Now, another (potential) twist: Swiss paper AGEFI is reporting that it has viewed a four-page confidential letter casting doubt on this story. Though Hutin-Blay has denied knowing Bouvier, the letter suggests that she did, the report states. Moreover, it indicates that she actually approved a sale of numerous artworks to Bouvier for €8 million.
AGEFI does not say who wrote the letter, which is directed to Hutin-Blay’s Paris attorney, Anne-Sophie Nardon, and possibly a judge in one of the proceedings, Judge Isabelle Rich Flament. We reached out to Nardon for comment but had not heard back by publication time.
According to the Swiss paper’s story, which artnet News had translated from French, the letter says that in the past Catherine Hutin-Blay sold Picasso artworks to Yves Bouvier for €8 million, and that the money transited through an entity known as the Nobilo Trust.
The Nobilo Trust account is a transit account, also called “an umbrella account,” used by several clients of the unidentified bank, including Hutin-Blay, the story says.
Responding to the story, Marc Comina, a spokesman for Bouvier, told artnet News via email: “As the investigation continues, it turns out that all facts presented by Yves Bouvier to the judge on 14 September are confirmed while all Catherine Hutin-Blay’s allegations are proving to be false.”
A source familiar with the case told artnet News that Bouvier had appeared before a judge this past September and presented evidence supporting the fact that a transaction had been arranged between himself and Hutin-Blay, including bank documents showing a payment he made through the Nobilo Trust in Lichtenstein.
Hutin-Blay reportedly replied that she did not know either Nobilo Trust or Bouvier and that she did not receive payment of €8 million. A few weeks later she changed her story, this source says, admitting she sold Bouvier 12 paintings.
Art Market Monitor’s Marion Maneker, whose post tipped us off to the Swiss story, writes: “What could have motivated Hutin-Blay to participate in this accusation remains somewhat of a mystery.”
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