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Staggering cache of Picassos turns up in France
November 29, 2010 11:29 AM   Subscribe

Staggering Cache Of Picassos Turns Up In France. A retired French electrician and his wife say they stashed hundreds of never-before-seen works [in French at Libération, who broke the story] estimated to be worth at least $80 million in their garage. The works are believed to be authentic, but it's not quite clear how they came to be in the couple's possession.
posted by nickyskye (66 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Calling it now.
posted by empath at 11:30 AM on November 29, 2010


Calling It Now

posted by The Whelk at 11:33 AM on November 29, 2010 [32 favorites]


Wasn't this an episode of "Young Indiana Jones"?
posted by Gator at 11:35 AM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bad electricians copy, great electricians steal.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:35 AM on November 29, 2010 [23 favorites]


The works, dating from the artist's highly creative "blue period" from 1900 to 1932,

WTF? The Blue Period only lasted from 1901 to 1904.
posted by scody at 11:38 AM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


(Though, of course, the Metafilter Blue Period will live forever.)
posted by scody at 11:38 AM on November 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


There is going to be a lot more to this story if these works are for real. I for one hope they are.
posted by bearwife at 11:40 AM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, yeah, small works on paper. I can see how those wound up overlooked in someone's attic--when I was going through my dad's stuff, I came across a big box of work by an artist friend of his who died in 1981. Unfortunately, this guy was no Picasso.

The still lifes are cool, though I still think Braque did that better than Picasso.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:42 AM on November 29, 2010


"I can see how those could have wound up" I should have said.

I can also see how those might be less audacious to fake/easier to fake than larger work or work in oils.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:43 AM on November 29, 2010


I hope they're real, too. How amazing would that be? It would be like finding "Love's Labour's Won".

But it does seem odd that he'd have all of these and never mention it to anyone until now. Why now?
posted by inturnaround at 11:44 AM on November 29, 2010


Pablo Picassos?
posted by Babblesort at 11:45 AM on November 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


I just turned the color of an

avocado.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:48 AM on November 29, 2010 [14 favorites]


Thanks, nickyskye. OMG, I hope this is true, that would be so exciting. Of course, I have barely made a dent in his other 20,000+ works, so what's a few hundred more? (What a mind-boggling number of works! Does anyone here on mefi even have 20,000 comments??)

I couldn't get the gallery in the last link to work - here is an alternate gallery of a few of the works.
posted by madamjujujive at 11:48 AM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just what the world needs: yet more uninteresting minor works by Picasso.
posted by Nelson at 11:49 AM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


"With the works authenticated, six Picasso heirs decided to file for charges against 'persons unknown'."

I should start doing this more. Just in case.
posted by hermitosis at 11:50 AM on November 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


Does anyone here on mefi even have 20,000 comments?

jonmc has far more than that, but he'd be the first to advise you that they ain't all art.
posted by hermitosis at 11:52 AM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does anyone here on mefi even have 20,000 comments??

At least one person has. There was a MetaTalk post to mark the occasion.
posted by jedicus at 11:52 AM on November 29, 2010


Just what the world needs: Another tale of suddenly striking it rich.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:53 AM on November 29, 2010


Does anyone here on mefi even have 20,000 comments??

I'm halfway there!
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:54 AM on November 29, 2010


I should start doing this more. Just in case.

Eh, why not go a little more ambitious?
posted by kmz at 11:55 AM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Picasso was such a prolific artist, it is possible that these are real. I hope so.
posted by Jodio at 12:03 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Le Guennec, 71, says Picasso gave him the works as gifts. The electrician installed burglar alarm systems at Picasso's numerous houses in France during the three years before the artist died in 1973.

Burglar alarms. Hmmm.
posted by three blind mice at 12:05 PM on November 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


I hope they are thieves!
TIME TRAVELING THIEVES!
posted by QueerAngel28 at 12:09 PM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Burglar alarms. Hmmm.

Indeed. What, I wonder, is the prescriptive period (i.e. statute of limitations) for theft in France?
posted by jedicus at 12:16 PM on November 29, 2010


37 years, of course.

(I just made that up.)
posted by kmz at 12:17 PM on November 29, 2010


This is intriguing, especially since the simplest solution suggests that they are real. I wouldn't doubt that some of them are gifts, but 271 is an awful lot of gifts, even if Picasso was paying the guy in art. So it may be a combination of Picasso's generosity and an electrician's light fingers.

I mean, I can imagine* someone as prolific as Picasso misplacing drawings. If it were in public, I am sure he would be alarmed, but in his own home or studio, he could have just been, "Huh, wonder where that one went. I could have sworn it was right here. I'm such a goose sometimes!" and then forgetting all about it, toddling off, and whipping twenty more drawings out of his ass that afternoon.



*I am unsure if that is biographically accurate. Hey, it's my imagination.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:24 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is how the majority of art theft happens, BTW. Most of the time, it's an employee or guest with some level of access to the work gradually stealing a number small, easily overlooked pieces over a period of time.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:27 PM on November 29, 2010


Does anyone here on mefi even have 20,000 comments??

I have 20,000 comments on another messageboard. And another 10,000 here.
posted by empath at 12:30 PM on November 29, 2010


Apparently the general rule is 10 years for felonies, which I assume this would be if the paintings were in fact stolen, and 5 years for civil actions. What I can't work out is when the clock starts ticking for crimes. For civil actions it starts when the owner of the cause of action knew or should have known that he or she could exercise it, but it could be that the clock does not start for prosecution until the fact of the crime is actually known.
posted by jedicus at 12:31 PM on November 29, 2010


Staggering Cache of Picassos is my new band name. Or name of something. It's fun to say many times over: "Staggering cache of Picassos! Staggering cache of Picassos!"

The ones shown in the slideshow, I really liked.
posted by Miko at 12:37 PM on November 29, 2010


$80 Million seems low to me, no?

Pablo Picasso?

What? oh, fuck, sorry, this is his brother Jerry Picasso.
posted by victors at 12:44 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


They are real, they've been authenticated.

I've only seen it mentioned in a couple of reports, but the theory is that the works were stolen and the man sat on them for 30 years as that is the statute of limitations for theft in France. They are now attempting to prosecute him for handling stolen goods, which has no statute of limitations.

Anyone who has seen photographs of any of Picassos grand houses in the south of France can understand how a working contractor left alone may be able to help himself to artworks. Picasso was ridiculously experimental, wonderfully prolific, and works were scattered everywhere. These 200 odd pictures aren't really big finished masterpieces, they seem to me mainly experiments, sketches and sketchbooks - exactly the kind of stuff that might be lying around on the floor uncatalogued. But still enormously valuable today.
posted by fire&wings at 12:50 PM on November 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


jedicus: according to that wiki article, the clock starts ticking when the crime is discovered, but I can't find a more reliable citation for that.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 12:54 PM on November 29, 2010


Unlike Pablo Picasso, this guy is an asshole for sitting on these paintings for 30 years thinking he was committing the perfect crime. I'm rooting for his prosecution purely for the narrative value. If only Guy de Maupassant were around to cover this story.
posted by Pants McCracky at 12:59 PM on November 29, 2010


If only Guy de Maupassant were around to cover this story.

It turns out the paintings are real but the guy who held on to them IS A ROBOT
posted by The Whelk at 1:02 PM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Picasso was ridiculously experimental, wonderfully prolific, and works were scattered everywhere.

Exactly. There's a pretty small gallery in San Francisco that I've been to a couple of times, and they have a few three-ring binders in a back room with original Picasso sketches slipped into plastic sheeting. I can absolutely believe a guy who interacted with Picasso a number of times having 200 drawings.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:02 PM on November 29, 2010


Picasso was such a prolific artist, it is possible that these are real. I hope so.

Picasso painted every day of his life. He said, "I relax when I paint. It is everything else that seems like work."

So yes, huge body of work.
posted by orange swan at 1:08 PM on November 29, 2010


This is basically the ephemera of an incredibly prolific artist. I can absolutely imagine Olga giving a suitcase of stuff to someone. When you are dealing with the sheer volume of work someone like Picasso produces, the line between "valuable treasure" and "into the dumpster" isn't where many people assume it would be marked.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:11 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Whenever I think of Picasso's repuation for being prolific, I can't help but think also of the Ray Bradbury story In a Season of Calm Weather.
posted by Miko at 1:18 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's one of my favorite stories Miko.
posted by nickyskye at 1:21 PM on November 29, 2010


So it seems perhaps:

Picasso scholars - Win!
Avid Picasso fans - Win!
The art world - Win!
A couple museums out there - Win!
An auction house or two - Win!
A documentary filmmaker who needed a subject - Win!
Electrician waiting 30 years for statue of limitations to pass - Lose!

That's a trade-off most of us can live with.
posted by Rashomon at 1:25 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


These are actually the result of Picasso's long-hidden Coke Period. Art historians have narrowed it down to a stunningly prolific chapter of his life between January 3rd, 1903 and January 5th, 1903.
posted by griphus at 1:38 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


As regards minor works, it's not about that. Every one is different and beautiful in its own way. That die for example - that goes in my Possible Future Tattoos list. To see how he does any idea, even if it took him five minutes, informs us all.
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:38 PM on November 29, 2010


"I often think about such a science (of creativity)," Picasso admitted, "and I want to leave posterity a documentation that will be as complete as possible. That's why I put a date on everything I do."

Which kind of reniforces the likelihood that these were pilfered. And they may be minor, but they're not uninteresting -- this one, for example, is a masterful little drawing.
posted by newmoistness at 1:44 PM on November 29, 2010


> Just what the world needs: Another tale of suddenly striking it rich.

If you can't manage to be a little more cheerful about it when I win the lottery, I'm buying everybody else a beer but not you.
posted by ardgedee at 1:47 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


And griphus, that's conventionally referred to as "The Blow Period".
posted by newmoistness at 1:48 PM on November 29, 2010


And griphus, that's conventionally referred to as "The Blow Period".

Nonsense - anyone with any close proximity to the White Lady knows that any "period" around her ingestion would be "Hours and Hours of Non-Stop Yammering of Little Sense, and Best Forgotten Tomorrow, Hopefully, as I Think That I'll be Better Off if I Forget This".

Now, if we were talking about meth - that's a different story. Same yammering only NOW WITH MORE CLEANING AND POSSIBLY PAINTING AND HEY WHO WANTS TO DRAW SOMETHING AND MAYBE WRITE A BIT AND SHIT LET'S PICK UP THE COUCH AND MAKE SURE WE GET ALL THE HAIR OUT FROM UNDERNEATH AND SHIT IT'S DAYLIGHT ALREADY HOW'D THAT HAPPEN BUT SERIOUSLY THE CLEANING

That would have been quite the "period".
posted by jivadravya at 1:53 PM on November 29, 2010


> They are real, they've been authenticated.

Those two clauses are not equivalent.
posted by languagehat at 1:55 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


What? oh, fuck, sorry, this is his brother Jerry Picasso.

I particularly like Jerry's work from his Sad Puppy Period.
posted by steambadger at 1:56 PM on November 29, 2010


Picasso Blue. Period.
posted by chavenet at 2:22 PM on November 29, 2010


At least Jerry's work was better than PDQ Picasso's.
posted by kmz at 2:23 PM on November 29, 2010


fire&wings: They are now attempting to prosecute him for handling stolen goods, which has no statute of limitations.

Is that maybe something lost in translation? It seems more likely that handling stolen goods also has time limits, but the point is that he is currently in possession of stolen goods. So it's too late to prosecute him for the theft, but he can still be prosecuted for the fact that he has them. If they really are worth $80 million, that won't be a slap on the wrist, and one would think he would lose the paintings too.

Of course, if he was given them, then that doesn't apply.
posted by GeckoDundee at 2:24 PM on November 29, 2010


Given them by Picasso I mean, not given them by a thief.
posted by GeckoDundee at 2:25 PM on November 29, 2010


I'm not inclined to give the guy benefit of the doubt, myself. If you owned these works legitimately, you would not hide them all these years — you'd at least frame a few of them and put them around the house.

However, proving that he stole it woudl would require not just proof that he lied about it being given to him, but then proof that he, or someone, actually stole it. Even prosecuting him for handling stolen goods requires proof that they were actually stolen, not just the executor's assertion that they were. The electrcian can just continue to maintain that Picasso gave it to him. With some luck, he can show that he never billed Picasso for the alarm systems and say that he was paid with artwork. Maybe some other contractor turns up who took a similar deal. At the end of the day, there will be some settlement whereby the artwork is auctioned, and he and and the estate split the profits some way.
posted by beagle at 2:40 PM on November 29, 2010


Is that maybe something lost in translation?

Possibly. I've read a few reports on this online but I saw the info on the statute of limitations on a BBC television news report, and I'm paraphrasing.

They weren't given to this man. Works from wildly different periods - the blue period to the mid 20th century. Different mediums, including many experiments. Individual works as well as sketchbooks?? Not a chance. Picasso gifted works but there is no clear reasoning behind the random collection of odds and ends this character had ended up with. It's almost as if they've been opportunistically plucked at random from Picasso's own collection.
posted by fire&wings at 3:19 PM on November 29, 2010


I think the deal with the handling stolen goods charge instead of theft is that it's easier to build a case that the works are stolen than that this guy specifically is the thief.
posted by chrchr at 3:51 PM on November 29, 2010


Has the electrician ever been accussed of theft by any other former clients? Did he steal only once, many times or not at all?
posted by Hoosier Prospector at 3:55 PM on November 29, 2010


I think it would be funny if I became a famous artist and my crap sketches and stuff from highschool became highly prized works.
posted by delmoi at 4:04 PM on November 29, 2010


I think it would be funny if I became a famous artist and my crap sketches and stuff from highschool became highly prized works.

What is the market like these days for turgid prose written on dark paper and sent to someone you are hopelessly in unrequited love with?
posted by maxwelton at 4:29 PM on November 29, 2010


WTF? The Blue Period only lasted from 1901 to 1904.

Nah, that's just what it looked like after all the Blue Period pictures from 1905 through 1932 were hidden in an electrician's garage.
posted by No-sword at 8:13 PM on November 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also, speaking as someone who survived the Picasso wing of the Hakone open art museum, there better not be any goddamn plates in that cache.
posted by No-sword at 8:16 PM on November 29, 2010


I look forward to hear how one proves something you never knew existed has been stolen. It seems a great deal of work to me.

There is a timeline that needs to be reconstructed.

1. Picasso creates artworks
2. Electrician fixes stuff in house
3. ?????
4. Electrician reveals cache of artworks.

Demonstrating without reasonable doubt what '?????' might be is a staggering process. Was he given them? Did he steal them? How on earth can you prove it, especially when, up until now, you didn't even know they were missing?

"Sure, I didn't know that this incredibly expensive thing didn't exist, but if I had known, I would of known it was also stolen and I want it back."

I hate to say it, but the burden of proof doesn't lie with the electrician here.
posted by Neale at 1:01 AM on November 30, 2010


estimated to be worth at least $80 million in their garage.

This is easily the least interesting part of the story.
posted by ersatz at 3:58 PM on November 30, 2010


I recall reading somewhere that Picasso often made a habit of not paying for dinners and things like that and instead offering sketches on napkins or whatever he had laying around as payment. I don't find it too hard to believe that he would have just told the electrician to "just take a few drawings that you like from the attic" rather than paying for the labor or paying full-price for it. Multiple houses would have multiple collections from multiple periods, I'd imagine.
posted by BrandonAbell at 4:58 PM on November 30, 2010


Brandon, I think you're remembering Jon Lovitz.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:28 PM on December 1, 2010


Lost art recovered
mystery is yet unsolved
perhaps, space-time rift?
posted by edgeways at 10:57 AM on December 29, 2010


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