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Friday, March 5, 2021

Qatar loses out on Picasso bust following legal dispute

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Pablo Picasso sculpture Bust of Woman, 1931
Pablo Picasso sculpture Bust of Woman, 1931

A legal tussle over the ownership of a multi-million dollar Pablo Picasso sculpture has come to an end, with a New York court deciding that the piece will go to an American art dealer and not a member of Qatar’s ruling family.

However, the family is set to receive an undisclosed sum in compensation after losing the bust.

The dispute centered around a 1931 plaster bust of Picasso’s muse and mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter.

Art agent Guy Bennett of Pelham Holdings claimed he had struck a deal to buy the sculpture, titled Bust of a Woman, in November 2014 from Picasso’s daughter Maya Widmaier-Picasso for about $42 million.

Bennett said he bought the bust on behalf of Sheikh Jassim bin Abdulaziz Al Thani, the husband of Qatar Museums‘ Chairperson Sheikha Al Mayassa.

However art dealer Larry Gagosian said the statue belonged to him. He said Widmaier-Picasso, 80, sold him the statue last May for $106 million.

He then sold the bust to businessman Leon Black, co-chairman of the Museum of Modern Art.

Both sides had filed separate law suits with a Manhattan federal court, claiming ownership of the work.

Last month, the New York Times reported that the court said the case had been settled, but at the time no details were given about who got to keep the sculpture.

Settlement

In a statement issued yesterday, the Gagosian Gallery announced that Black had won the rights to the artwork in “a complete vindication of the gallery’s position.”

“We are pleased that the dispute between the Picassos and Pelham has been settled and Mr. Black will receive his sculpture. Today’s settlement shows without question that the Gagosian Gallery purchased and sold this sculpture in good faith and without any knowledge of Picasso and Pelham’s prior dealings, as we have said all along.”

Widmaier-Picasso paid Pelham an undisclosed sum as part of the settlement deal, Bloomberg reported, quoting  Jo Backer Laird, an attorney for Pelham at Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler.

“The amount of the payment is confidential, but Pelham and its client are very happy with the settlement,” Laird said in a statement.

A joint statement by all the parties involved in the dispute was also issued yesterday, the news wire added. It said:

“Pelham Europe Ltd., Maya Widmaier-Ruiz Picasso, Diana Widmaier Picasso, Gagosian Gallery, Inc., Lawrence Gagosian, Leon Black, and Seydoux & Associes Fine Art SA are pleased to report that the parties have reached a good faith global settlement resolving all matters and actions relating to Pablo Picasso’s Buste de Femme (Marie-Therese), Boisgeloup, 1931.”

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