The Legal Feud Over ‘Picasso Bust’ Is Settled, but Who’s the Mystery Owner?

The details of the settlement remain confidential.

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

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

The international legal battle over Pablo Picasso’s Bust of a Woman has been settled after more than six months. But the conclusion of the case might not satisfy the curiosity of those who have been following it closely, as its details remain confidential.

A member of Qatar’s royal family and the New York billionaire Leon Black both vied for the legal ownership of the rare artwork. Bloomberg reports that the two parties have now reached a settlement in the lawsuits they had filed against each other.

“It having been reported to this court that these actions have been or will be settled, these actions are discontinued without costs to any party,” US District Judge William Pauley said in an order on Monday, adding that either side can ask the court to reopen the dispute within 30 days.

However, the identity of the ultimate owner of the 1931 plaster bust depicting Picasso’s lover Marie-Thérèse Walter is still a mystery as the details of the settlement were not revealed during the filing that took place yesterday in New York federal court, and the parties involved are keeping mum.

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 saga goes back to November 2015, when the advisory firm Pelham Europe—run by former Christie’s Impressionist and Modern head Guy Bennet—filed a lawsuit claiming that Maya Widmaier-Picasso, daughter of Picasso and Marie-Thérèse, had agreed to sell the work to the Qatari royals for $42 million back in November 2014.

According to Bennet, who brokered the deal on behalf of the Qataris, two of the three instalments had already been paid before Widmaier-Picasso repudiated the contract and sold the bust, in May 2015, for approximately $106 million to megadealer Larry Gagosian. Gegosian, who then sold it to billionaire collector Leon Black, filed a counter-suit in January, also claiming ownership.

The protracted legal case also involved Widmaier-Picasso’s children Olivier and Diana. The latter, according to Pelham, favored the deal with Gagosian.


Larry Gagosian. Photo: Patrick McMullan.

During the case, Widmaier-Picasso denied any wrongdoing and claimed she did not sell the work twice. In addition, a spokesperson for Gagosian Gallery wrote in an email to artnet News: “We bought and sold the sculpture in good faith and with good title.”

Whoever is now in possession of Picasso’s Bust of Woman potentially owns a record-shattering sculpture by the legendary Spanish artist. According to the artnet Price Database, the highest price ever paid for a Picasso sculpture at auction was $29.2 million, in 2007, for a Dora Maar bronze bust at Sotheby’s New York.

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