Maya Widmaier-Picasso Denies She Sold $106 Million Picasso Bust Twice
Amid the controversy, Picasso’s daughter speaks out.
This past Friday, Maya Widmaier-Picasso, the daughter of the legendary artist, issued a statement via her lawyer, Thaddeus Stauber, dismissing allegations that she sold the 1931 plaster bust depicting her mother, Marie-Thérèse Walter, twice.
In her statement, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, Widmaier-Picasso argues she sold the sculpture to Larry Gagosian in May 2015. Gagosian paid $106 million for the plaster bust, a record price for any Picasso sculpture.
The mega-dealer then sold it to Leon D. Black, the billionaire founder of the private equity firm Apollo Global Management and co-chairman of the board of New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), where the sculpture was displayed as part of the exhibition “Picasso Sculpture” until the show closed Sunday.
However, because of the legal battle for ownership initiated in November 2015 by advisory firm Pelham Europe, when the show is taken down, the sculpture won’t go back to Black.
According to Pelham Europe’s Guy Bennett, acting 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—in November 2014, Widmaier-Picasso entered into a contract to sell the sculpture to Pelham for an agreed-upon price of $42 million (a record price at the time) which was to be paid in three installments.
Pelham also argues that they had already paid two installments when Widmaier-Picasso repudiated their contract. Widmaier-Picasso confirmed she had received the two payments and returned them.
Last week, the Qatari royal family and Larry Gagosian reached a temporary agreement, so that after its de-installment, the sculpture will be stored with the Gagosian gallery while a Manhattan federal court determines its rightful owner. International legal proceedings have also been filed in Switzerland and France.
In her Friday statement, Widmaier-Picasso argued that Larry Gagosian had “paid in good faith the proper price” for the controversial sculpture. Picasso’s 80-year-old daughter also stated that her daughter, Diana Widmaier-Picasso, had reminded her that she would get a higher price from Gagosian, and that she “cannot be faulted for reminding her mother of the sculpture’s true value.”
Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal claims Diana “occasionally works” with Larry Gagosian, which could explain why she arranged the deal with the gallerist, while her brother, Olivier Widmaier-Picasso, was the one who arranged the deal with Qatar.
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