US re­turns long-lost Pi­casso paint­ing to France

The China Post - - ARTS -

The United States on Thurs­day re­turned to French author­i­ties an oil paint­ing by Pablo Pi­casso that was re­ported stolen from a ma­jor Paris mu­seum 14 years ago.

“The Hair­dresser,” which Pi­casso cre­ated in Paris in 1911 dur­ing his Cu­bism pe­riod, was seized by U.S. cus­toms agents in New Jersey.

Val­ued at US$ 15 mil­lion, it was au­then­ti­cated in Jan­uary by ex­perts from the Cen­tre Ge­orges Pom­pi­dou mu­seum, its pre­vi­ous home.

“Pi­casso used to say: ‘A paint­ing truly ex­ists in the eyes of the be­holder’,” said Fred­eric Dore, deputy chief of mis­sion at the French em­bassy in Washington, where the paint­ing was for­mally handed over.

Once back in the French cap­i­tal, the diplo­mat said, it will “come back to life” and re­turn to public view af­ter care­ful restora­tion “thanks to this out­stand­ing Franco- Amer­i­can cus­toms co­op­er­a­tion.”

The paint­ing had been listed on In­ter­pol’s data­base of stolen works of art since it was re­ported stolen from the Cen­tre Pom­pi­dou’s ar­chives in 2001.

It had last been pub­licly dis­played in Mu­nich, Ger­many in 1998 — and no one is clear on where it has been since.

U.S. cus­toms agents came across it dur­ing a tar­geted in­spec­tion in Ne­wark, New Jersey, just out­side New York, in De­cem­ber 2014.

Wrapped as a Christ­mas par­cel sent from Bel­gium, it bore a ship­ping la­bel that claimed it was a mere US$30 hand­i­craft, the U.S. Immigration and Cus­toms En­force­ment (ICE) agency said. No ar­rests have been made. “It’s truly price­less ( and) so mean­ing­ful — not just to your coun­try, but to the world,” said ICE di­rec­tor Sarah Sal­dana at the han­dover cer­e­mony.

“We are com­mit­ted to ex­tract­ing stolen cul­tural prop­erty from the grasp of the black mar­ket and restor­ing it to its right­ful own­ers,” added Kelly Cur­rie, the U.S. fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor for the eastern dis­trict of New York, in a state­ment.

“The Hair­dresser” en­tered the Cen­tre Pom­pi­dou’s col­lec­tion in 1967, do­nated by French art col­lec­tor Ge­orges Salles, who spe­cial­ized in Cu­bist works.

It had pre­vi­ously be­longed to French art dealer Am­broise Vol­lard, who played a ma­jor role in pro­mot­ing Pi­casso and other early 20th cen­tury artists.

Dore said it was the fourth piece of art that the U.S. author­i­ties have re­turned to France since 2011.

Another Pi­casso worth over 25 mil­lion eu­ros (US$27.9 mil­lion), seized from a yacht off the French is­land of Cor­sica, was trans­ferred Tues­day to a Madrid mu­seum.

That 1906 paint­ing en­ti­tled “Head of a Young Woman,” which was sub­ject to a Span­ish ex­port ban, had been seized by French cus­toms at the end of July, halt­ing what they said was .

Pi­casso died in France in 1973 at the age of 91, leav­ing be­hind a vast and in­flu­en­tial body of work in­clud­ing paint­ings, sculp­tures and ce­ram­ics.


Mem­bers of the media pho­to­graph Pablo Pi­casso’s paint­ing en­ti­tled “La Coif­feuse,” seen in a pro­tec­tive plas­tic cover at the French Em­bassy in Washington, be­fore U.S. Immigration and Cus­toms En­force­ment re­turned the paint­ing back to France, Thurs­day, Aug. 13. The paint­ing, val­ued at US$15 mil­lion, was stolen in 1998 and seized in De­cem­ber 2014.

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