Police Escort $28 Million Picasso Seized on Yacht to Madrid’s Reina Sofia Museum
A team of experts transferred the painting from Corsica on August 11.
According to the Spanish police, the painting, Head of a Young Woman (1906), is worth €26.2 million ($28.7 million). A team of Spanish experts, including an art restorer and a professional art mover, retrieved the work from Corsica on August 11.
“The painting will be stored in a warehouse of the museum until we know more about its destiny,” a museum spokesperson told AFP. The institution is home to one of Picasso’s most famous works, the anti-war masterpiece Guernica.
The recently-seized artwork belongs to Spanish banker Jaime Botin, 79, brother to the late philanthropist Emilo Botín, of the Santander banking group.
The Spanish culture ministry had been blocking Botín’s efforts to export the work since 2012, on the grounds that there was “no similar work on Spanish territory” from that period of the artist’s life. In May, the Spanish courts sided with the government, issuing an export ban on the portrait due to its “cultural interest.”
For his part, Botín contests the validity of the ban. His lawyers argue that Picasso painted the work when he was abroad, and that Botín bought the work in London in 1977. Additionally, over the subsequent decades, the painting has been stored on a ship bearing a British flag, and so is on foreign territory subject to British regulations despite being currently docked in Spain.
Experts have since dismissed these arguments as a “huge contradiction,” pointing out that if they were valid, Botín would have never sought an export permit in the first place.
Corsican officials were tipped off in July that Botín was attempting to smuggle the portrait to Switzerland. Customs agents seized the work after the captain produced a document from the Spanish court preventing the painting from leaving the country.
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