Rare Picasso turns up but owners have to sell it

Posted filed underArt Market, News.

Most of us are resolved to never owning a rare Picasso but imagine you had one and were forced to sell it. This is what just happened to a small museum in Evansville, Indiana.

Phaidon reports that “a lost rare Picasso’s unexpected appearance in the archive of an an Indiana Museum recently has proved to be a mixed blessing.

The Museum of Arts, History and Science in the southwestern Indiana town of Evansville discovered earlier this year that it had a 1957 work by Pablo Picasso, Seated Woman with Red Hat, in its collection, which had been ‘lost’ long ago through a mislabelling error. Designer Raymond Loewy had purchased the painting in 1957 and gifted it to the Evansville Museum in the 1960s. However, all the documentation associated with the gift indicated that the work was by an artist named Gemmaux. Gemmaux happens to be the plural of the artistic technique which uses layered glass to create 3-D art – a technique Picasso employed for the painting.

The work remained miscatalogued for more than 40 years, until curator Mary Bower got a call from Guernsey’s auction house in New York. It was doing research on a special glass technique Picasso used and had tracked one of the works to Evansville. It turned out that the piece in the museum’s storage area was in fact a rare gemmail, one of only 50 Picasso made. Naturally, the museum wanted to put it on show. However, after seeing the insurance bill necessary to insure a piece of art that’s valued between $30 million and $40 million it was forced reluctantly, to put its Picasso up for sale.

“It would have cost too much money to insure and to adequately protect,” Board President Steve Krohn, a businessman and a lawyer, said. “We might have had to hire additional security and make changes to the physical plant that we couldn’t justify for one item. We made the only prudent decision.” Art can be a cruel mistress indeed.”

Story lifted from Phaidon.