Picasso’s paintings causing disturbances – Thoughts about Art and Ownership

I am an aficionado of art in general but for me, the most scintillating and infectious era of painting spanned roughly from the ending of the impressionists to the start of the abstractionists – Van Gogh to Picasso in brief – in there are Matisse, Vlaminck, Toulouse-Latrec, Chagall …

I also follow along as various Van Gogh and Munch’s are stolen and sometimes recovered and meditate (for lack of a better word to describe deep, lucid thoughts occurring while walking and not-thinking) on the reasons and logistics for art thievery and the conundrums and tensions between art and commerce in general.

Anyhow, A few weeks back, a story of quadrillionaire impresario Steve Wynn excitedly put his elbow through Picasso (and received tons of really favorable press from it – he’s clumsy and an art enthusiast the articles say). He had to cancel a sky-high deal to sell the piece and sent it into repairs.

Meanwhile, another Picasso (one I particularly like too) is accused of being obtained under devious and dubious surroundings – indeed diaspora results in art and objects d’art to be left behind, sold at a discount rate, hidden never to be found or otherwise experience an unplanned change of hands.

How to present a case? Is one really entitled to damages from a third-party (meaning someone who did not “steal” the painting but may have purchased it off someone who did obtain it in tense circumstances)? Should The Louvre, for example, return Hammurabi’s code? But to whom?

Egypt’s ancient and rich legacy is another example of a museum taking, but ultimately preserving, objects that otherwise would’ve been scavenged by bandits and melted and sold. The Haida art local to the Northwest might have been lost with many of the tribe (small pox etc) had the somewhat(un)-scrupulous sea captains not taken precious artifacts to London for cataloging and preservation – later to help revive the art for contemporary artisans.

In the case below, the factoid missing from the briefing is how the wealthy banker obtained the painting in the firstplace. There may well be a chain of devious behavior but either way, i’d prefer the piece to end up in Pablo’s fine museum in Barcelona which, while full of fascinating pieces showing his progress as an artist, lacks some “major” pieces from what is perhaps his most enduring era of his craft.

$60M Picasso taken off auction block (CNN)

POSTED: 11:05 a.m. EST, November 9, 2006

NEW YORK(AP) — British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Art Foundation withdrew a Picasso painting worth up to $60 million from a planned Christie’s auction Wednesday amid claims by a German man that he owns the piece.

TheLloyd Webber foundation and Christie’s said ownership claims by Julius Schoeps meant a “cloud of doubt has been recklessly placed” on the ownership of the painting from Picasso’s Blue Period, “Portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto.”

Schoeps is suing the Lloyd Webber foundation, saying in a federal complaint that he was an heir of wealthy Jewish banker Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy from Berlin and that the banker lost the painting in Nazi Germany in a “forced sale.”

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