Billionaire Leon Black Revealed as Mystery Buyer for Contested Picasso Bust
Who will win this tug-of-war?
To whom was gallerist Larry Gagosian trying to sell a contested Pablo Picasso bust? The secret buyer, finally revealed thanks to federal court documents, is Leon D. Black, the billionaire founder of private equity firm Apollo Global Management and co-chairman of the board of New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), reports the New York Times.
The 1931 plaster sculpture, Bust of a Woman, is currently on view in the exhibition “Picasso Sculpture” at MoMA. Black purchased the artwork from Gagosian at an unknown price. The megadealer had previously purchased it for $106 million from Picasso’s daughter, Maya Widmaier-Picasso, according to the Times,
The curious looking sculpture is a portrait of Widmaier-Picasso’s mother, Marie-Thérèse Walter, the artist’s mistress and muse. The conflict stems from the fact that Widmaier-Picasso reportedly arranged to sell the work not once but twice, triggering a legal battle across three countries. To date, lawsuits have been filed in New York, Switzerland, and France.
Originally, Widmaier-Picasso planned to sell the sculpture to an agent of the Qatari royal family for $42 million. That sale, arranged in 2014, allegedly fell through when Widmaier-Picasso moved to repudiate the contract.
The Art Market Monitor reports that according to a forthcoming Bloomberg story by Katya Kazakina, Widmaier-Picasso pulled out of the deal due to a dispute among her children. Widmaier-Picasso’s son Oliver reportedly helped arrange the original deal behind the back of his sister Diana Widmaier-Picasso, who had allegedly spoken with Gagosian about a sale at a much higher price, and may have convinced Maya to change her mind.
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