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Picasso’s Widow Accused of Hiding Artworks
Art And Culture

Picasso’s Widow Accused of Hiding Artworks

A retired electrician who kept nearly 300 Pablo Picasso artworks in his garage for almost 40 years told a French appeal court Monday that the artist’s widow may have wanted to hide the works from his family.

“Mrs. Jacqueline Picasso had problems with (her step-son) Claude (Ruiz) Picasso,” Pierre Le Guennec said, presenting a new version of events to the court in the southern city of Aix-en-Provence, China Post reported.

Le Guennec, convicted last year along with his wife of possessing stolen goods, said that Picasso’s widow had asked him to store between 15 and 17 garbage bags containing artworks after the artist died in April 1973.

The 77-year-old said that some time later Jacqueline Picasso retrieved the bags but gave him one of them, saying: “Keep this, it’s for you.”

Le Guennec said “maybe” the widow was trying to prevent the works from an estate inventory.

He added he did not tell the truth in the earlier trial out of “fear of being accused, along with Madame, of stealing these bags.”

Le Guennec, who was the Picassos’ handyman, had previously testified to being given the drawings while the artist was still alive, in 1971 or 1972.

The couple’s lawyer Eric Dupond-Moretti said he had learned the new version of events only a few days ago.

Le Guennec said Jacqueline gave him the 271 works - 180 single pieces and a notebook containing 91 drawings - as a gift recognizing the couple’s devotion. He described the works as “drawings, sketches, (and) crumpled paper.” Uninterested in the haul, Le Guennec said he put the collection in his garage and rediscovered it in 2009.

Claude Ruiz-Picasso’s lawyer Jean-Jacques Neuer angrily denounced Le Guennec’s testimony as a “staggering lie,” saying the case involved the “art market’s darkest and most powerful” forces engaged in an “international stolen art laundering” scam.

Prosecutor Christophe Raffin asked the court to uphold the couple’s two-year suspended sentences meted out in March 2015. A verdict is due Dec.16.

“I don’t believe the version that (the drawings) were a gift,” Raffin said. “I think it’s a theft from an aging Pablo Picasso and from Jacqueline, more than ever focused on her husband.”

 

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