Trial of Picasso’s Electrician Pierre Le Guennec Starts Today

Together with his wife, he hid €80m worth of art in his garage for 37 years.

Pierre Le Guennec.

One of the most extraordinary cases of stolen Picassos is about to draw to a close. The trial of Pierre Le Guennec and his wife Danielle, begins today in Grasse, South of France.

For 37 years, the couple kept in their garage 271 artworks by Pablo Picasso, including, reports Les Echos, six oils on canvas, 28 lithographs, and some rare cubist collages and sketchbooks, dating between 1900 and 1932. The cache is estimated at between €80 million and 60 million, depending on the sources.

According to the couple, Picasso’s wife gifted the works to Le Guennec when he was working at the artist’s villa in Mougins, shortly before his death in 1973.

“One evening, as I was leaving, Madame gave me a little parcel and said ‘this is for you’,” Le Guennec told AFP in 2010. His wife recalls her husband coming back one evening with the works stuffed in a bin bag.

The Picasso Estate, led by Picasso’s son, Claude, has called the Le Guennecs’s story “ridiculous.” None of the works are signed, which plays against the couple, as the artist tended to sign his works just before selling or giving them away.

Picasso was a prolific artist, thought to have produced over 20,000 works throughout his career, many of which have disappeared.

This might have been the fate of the 271 pieces in Le Guennec’s possessions. But in 2010, hoping to clarify the situation of the works for his children, the former handyman went to Paris to show his treasures to Claude Picasso.

Claude’s reaction was probably not what he had anticipated. While the artist’s son authenticated the works, he also accused Le Guennec of having stolen them. A few days later, police confiscated the cache.

“Picasso was aware of the importance of his works, and he wouldn’t give them away carelessly,” said Claude Picasso’s lawyer, Jean-Jacques Neuer. “When you give someone a present, you pick something that will fit that person. Picasso here gave works that have nothing to do with each other, including extremely precious cubist collages, which represent 10 percent of his entire production! There are also two sketchbooks, important tools for Picasso, that he wouldn’t have given away.”

The Le Guennecs are accused of concealing stolen goods. If convicted, they could face a €375,000 fine and up to five years in jail.

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