Gagosian And Qatari Royal Family Reach Temporary Agreement in Picasso Ownership Dispute

Gagosian will keep the bust as the legal battle rages on.

Pablo Picasso Bust of a Woman (Marie Therese) (1931)
Pablo Picasso Bust of a Woman (Marie Therese) (1931)

Art dealer Larry Gagosian and the Qatari royal family have reached a temporary agreement in the ongoing ownership dispute over a 1931 plaster bust by Pablo Picasso.

The two parties have agreed for the statue to be stored with the Gagosian Gallery while the rightful owner of the piece is being determined by a Manhattan federal court. International legal proceedings have also been filed in Switzerland and France.

According to the New York Times, the agreement was reached as the Museum of Modern Art’s critically acclaimed exhibition on Picasso’s sculptural work comes to a close on Sunday.

Larry Gagosian and the Qatari royal family both insist they bought the sculpture. Photo: Lucy Hogg

Larry Gagosian and the Qatari royal family both insist they bought the sculpture.
Photo: Lucy Hogg

Legal action was filed in New York in November 2015 by Pelham Europe, an advisory firm run by former Christie’s Impressionist and Modern head, Guy Bennet. In January, Larry Gagosian filed a counter-suit also claiming ownership of the artwork.

Gagosian maintains that he bought the sculpture for $106 million from Maya Widmaier-Picasso and her daughter Diana in May 2015. The mega-dealer subsequently sold the bust to an unknown collector, who in turn lent it to the MoMA for the museum’s survey of Picasso’s sculptural work.

However, according to court documents Pelham contends that Maya Widmaier-Picasso sold the sculpture to Pelham for $42 million in November 2015 in an agreement which stipulated payment in three instalments. The advisory firm accused Widmaier-Picasso of repudiating the contract shortly before the final instalment was due.

Larry Gagosian. Image: ©Patrick McMullan. David Crotty/PatrickMcMullan

Larry Gagosian.
Image: ©Patrick McMullan. David Crotty/PatrickMcMullan

According to a statement from the gallery provided to the New York Times “We bought and sold the sculpture in good faith without knowledge of the alleged claim. We are entirely confident that our purchase and sale are valid and that Pelham has no rights to the work.”

Although the Qatari royal family is not named in the court documents, the New York Times reports that Pelham acted as an intermediary on behalf of Sheik Jassim bin Abdulaziz al-Thani, who is married to Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, chairwoman of the Qatar Museums Authority.


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