December 5, 2010
In October, French investigators seized 271 Picasso works from a small house in southern France. How had an elderly electrician come to have such great objects amassed in his home? That’s simple, Picasso gave them to him as gifts.
Or is it so simple? The Daily Telegraph reports that, “Claude Picasso insisted that his father would “never” have given such a large quantity of works to anyone.” Accordingly, the Picasso family filed a lawsuit at the end of September.
It does seem rather unlikely that Picasso(!!) would let these works escape public attention. The guardian reports that, “Picasso, who rose from penniless Spanish immigrant to one of France’s most revered adopted sons, was notoriously reluctant to part with his works, even after they had been sold. In later life he went as far as to bid at auctions to buy them back. He was also aware of his own importance in the history of art and the value of even a hurried scribble on a train ticket.”
However, Claude Picasso’s insistence is tainted with history. The Daily Telegraph reasons that, “[Claude’s] zeal for protecting the Picasso name may be explained by the battle he had to be recognised as Picasso’s legitimate heir.”
But why would the electrician come forward now, 40 years later, to have the works authenticated? ArtInfo points out that he could not have been waiting for the statute of limitations to run, because no such period exists in France for claims regarding possession of personal property.
Although an admittedly dodgy affair, perhaps the real issue is cultural elitism. Does somebody else have a better right to Picasso’s paintings than his electrician? The lawsuit remains pending.