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Gagosian Gallery and Qataris wrangle over Picasso sculpture

  • artburo
  • Tuesday January 12th, 2016

Gagosian Gallery and Qataris wrangle over Picasso sculpture

New York law filings peek into the secretive dealings of private, multi-million-dollar international art sales

Two art world power players are going head to head. Tuesday morning, the New York dealer Larry Gagosian sued the agent of the Qatari royal family over the sale of a 1931 sculptural bust of Picasso’s mistress Marie-Thérèse, currently on display in the Museum of Modern Art. 

As the New York Times reports, in documents filed in Manhattan federal court, Gagosian says he bought the sculpture in good faith for about $106m from Picasso’s daughter, Maya Widmaier-Picasso, in May 2015. He then sold the work on to a New York collector who planned to take it after MoMA’s blockbuster Picasso Sculpture show closes on 7 February.

But Pelham Holdings, the New York-based art advisory run by Guy Bennett which represents the Qatari family, one of the biggest art collectors in the world, says it had already agreed to buy the work from Widmaier-Picasso in November 2014 for around $42m. According to the court papers, the New York Times reports, Widmaier-Picasso reconsidered and returned the Qataris’ initial payment of $6m after consulting with her daughter, who reminded her of higher offers made through Gagosian. 

Pelham sued in Switzerland to enforce the sale and petitioned a French court to seize the work. In November, it filed an application in New York court to force Gagosian and Widmaier-Picasso to reveal the details of the sale.  

Gagosian says that he did not learn about the earlier claim until late October 2015, after he says title of the sculpture had already passed to him. The gallery has asked the judge to “quiet” any challenges to its ownership of the work.