Leon Black Gets Contested Picasso Bust in Settlement

The Qataris will be financially compensated.

Pablo Picasso, Bust of a Woman (1931). Courtesy Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Larry Gagosian has won the day in a dispute over a contested Pablo Picasso sculpture, Bust of a Woman. As the result of a settlement reached in May and announced on June 15, the New York Times reports, the Qatari royal family, which had staked their own claim to the piece, will receive financial compensation of an undisclosed amount, while the actual work is bound for the megadealer’s preferred buyer, billionare art collector Leon Black.

Leon Black. Photo: Apollo Global Management.

Leon Black. Courtesy Apollo Global Management.

The 1931 sculpture had belonged to Picasso’s daughter Maya Widmaier-Picasso, who arranged two separate sales of the work: To Gagosian, for $106 million in May 2015, and, about six months earlier, to Pelham Holdings, for $42 million in November 2014. The earlier sale was conducted on behalf of Sheikh Jassim bin Abdulaziz al-Thani, husband of Qatar Museums Authority chairwoman Sheikha al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.

It appears that a family dispute may have been at play, as Widmaier Picasso’s daughter, Diana, encouraged her mother to void the earlier, Qatari sale, arranged by her brother Oliver, in order to obtain more money for the work.

Gagosian, reportedly unaware of the earlier transaction, went ahead and arranged to sell the bust—which depicts the artist’s lover and muse, Marie-Thérèse Walter, Widmaier Picasso’s mother—to Black.

Maya Widmaier-Picasso in February 2015.Photo: Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images.

Maya Widmaier-Picasso in February 2015.
Photo: Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images.

The dispute took on some added public interest since during its course the contested artwork was included in on view in the exhibition “Picasso Sculpture” at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

“We are pleased that the dispute between the Picassos and Pelham has been settled and Mr. Black will receive his sculpture,” said Gagosian Gallery spokesperson Jeffrey Schneider in a statement. “Today’s settlement shows without question that the Gagosian Gallery purchased and sold this sculpture in good faith and without any knowledge of Picasso and Pelham’s prior dealings, as we have said all along. Today is a complete vindication of the gallery’s position.”

The settlement resolves lawsuits in New York, Switzerland, and France.

A joint statement issued by all parties reads, “Pelham Europe Ltd, Maya Widmaier-Ruiz Picasso, Diana Widmaier Picasso, Gagosian Gallery Inc., Lawrence Gagosian, Leon Black and Seydoux & Associés Fine Art SA are pleased to report that the parties have reached a good faith global settlement resolving all matters and actions relating to Pablo Picasso’s Buste de Femme (Marie Thérèse), Boisgeloup, 1931.”

Pelham’s lawyer, Jo Laird, told the Wall Street Journal that the settlement amount “made them very happy.”


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