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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Report: Prominent Qatari, art dealer in dispute over Picasso bust


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

A firm representing members of Qatar’s ruling family has become locked in a legal battle with a renowned art dealer over the ownership of a multi-million dollar Pablo Picasso sculpture, according to media reports.

Yesterday, art dealer Larry Gagosian filed a lawsuit in a federal court in Manhattan against the agent Pelham Holdings, which is run by Guy Bennett, the New York Times reports.

Both Gagosian and Pelham claim they own the sculpture, a 1931 plaster bust of Picasso’s muse Marie-Thérèse Walter, and both have separately filed legal actions in a bid to obtain it.

According to the NYT, Pelham bought the bust on behalf of Sheikh Jassim bin Abdulaziz al-Thani – the husband of Qatar Museums‘ Chairperson Sheikha Al Mayassa.


Quoting legal documents from November, Artnet News reports that Pelham had made two out of three agreed payments for the artwork and was about to pay the final installment  when the sale fell through.

Meanwhile, Gagosian claims he bought the sculpture, titled Bust of Woman, in May last year for $106 million from Picasso’s daughter, 80-year-old Maya Widmaier-Picasso.

He then sold the bust, which is currently on display at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), to an unnamed New York collector, who expected to receive it once the show closes early next month, the NYT reports.

However, in his legal documents Pelham claims that his company bought the sculpture from Widmaier-Picasso six months earlier, in November 2014, and for around $42 million – less than half the amount Gagosian paid.

Portrait of Larry Gagosian
Portrait of Larry Gagosian

The Gagosian Gallery filed a claim yesterday against Pelham, in which it asked the judge to “quiet” any challenges or claims to the bust, the NYT states.

“We are entirely confident that our purchase and sale are valid and that Pelham has no rights to the work,” the gallery said.

In a statement to the newspaper, the gallery stressed that its dispute was with Al-Thani’s art dealer, and not Sheikh Jassim .

“We have the highest respect for Sheikh al Thani, a longtime friend of the Gallery and regret that he has been unfairly drawn into this matter,” it reportedly said.

Sheikha Mayassa is regularly named as one of the world’s most powerful Arab women and is one of the most influential people in the global art world.

Forbes magazine named her the “undisputed queen of the art world in her role as chairperson of QM, with a reportedly annual buying purse of $1 billion year.


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