Resolution in Picasso Spat…sort of

You might remember back in January the dispute between the Larry Gagosian, of the Gagosian Galleries, and the Qatari Royals over a famous sculpture by Picasso (read about it here)? Well, the dispute has come to a temporary agreement.

The 1931 sculpture of Picasso’s lover and muse, Marie-Thérèse Waler, has been the subject of some very expensive confusion, that for now, has been resolved. For the moment, the sculpture will be stored at the Gagosian Gallery as the exhibition of Picasso’s sculptures at the MoMa that the bust has been on loan to (courtesy of the unknown collector Gagosian sold it to) comes to an end this Sunday, and the rightful owner is still to be decided.

The dispute came about in October 2015 when Gagosian, who has ties with the Picasso family had, to his knowledge, bought the sculpture in May 2015 from Maya Widmaier-Picasso – the daughter of Marie-Thérèse and Picasso – for $105.8 million; of which he had paid $79.7 million (75% of the purchase value) and said he had finalised a sales agreement with a New York buyer, who is expecting to take possession once the exhibition at the MoMa closes this Sunday, February 7th.

However, Gagosian states that in October 2015 he received a letter from the advisory firm Pelham (founded and managed by former Christies expert Guy Bennet), claiming ownership and contending their rights to the piece. Pelham had also agreed to purchase the work from Ms Widmaier-Picasso in November 2014 in three instalments, on behalf of Sheikh Jassim bin Abdulaziz al-Thani, who’s wife is Sheikha al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani (she is the Qatar Museums Authority, and is one of the biggest art buyers in the world.)

Pelham has accused Widmaier-Picasso of repudiating the contract shortly before the final instalment was due. Apparently a lawyer for Maya Widmaier-Picasso asked that the sale to the Qatari royal family be canceled; Pelham claims in documents this was because “Widmaier-Picasso lacked mental capacity” to complete the transaction “due to purported medical issues.”

The total Pelham agreed to purchase it for was €38 million ($41.3 million), of which as Gagosian has said: “Buying at this price would have given Pelham an instant $60 million-plus windfall at Maya’s expense.”  So, after the closing of the exhibition on the 7th, Mr Gagosian will be its guardian while the Manhattan federal court decide its rightful owner.

Our advice? If you happen to be in New York, catch the exhibition while you still can, who knows when or where you will next see this beautiful bust!