Who owns the 'Bust of a Woman'?

Pablo Picasso’s 1931 sculpture Bust of a Woman, on display at New York's museum, has taken center stage in a court in a dispute over its ownership

New York: A prominent US art dealer has gone to court in a fight with a British collector— reportedly representing the Qatari royal family, over a Picasso sculpture valued at more than $100 million (Rs 674 crore).

The subject of the sculpture, Marie-Therese Walter, was Picasso’s mistress and model for years. Pic/AFP
The subject of the sculpture, Marie-Therese Walter, was Picasso’s mistress and model for years. Pic/AFP

The work, Bust of a Woman (Marie-Therese), dated 1931, is currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York as part of the largest exhibit of sculpture by the Spanish master in 50 years.

Larry Gagosian, who has worked with members of the Picasso family for years, is asking the federal court in Manhattan to reject the opposing side’s claim to the sculpture.

He contends that he purchased it in May 2015 from the daughter of the artist, Maya Widmaier-Picasso, for $105.8 million, according to a legal action he filed in federal court. Gagosian said he had so far paid $79.7 million for the work.

Gagosian further states that he received a letter in October from a British trading firm, Pelham Europe, asserting its ownership of the sculpture and threatening to have it seized in New York.

That firm, representing members of Qatar’s ruling family, contends that it reached an agreement in November 2014 to purchase the work from Widmaier-Picasso for $ 41.3 million. But the artist’s daughter renounced the sale after a first payment of only six million euros, according to Gagosian’s legal filing.

Muse and the masterpiece
The subject of the bust, Marie-Therese Walter, was Picasso’s mistress and model for several years and the mother of Widmaier-Picasso. The case is complicated, as Picasso’s many wives, muses, children and grandchildren have for years wrangled over his creations.

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