271 Unknown Picasso Pieces Turn Up In France
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Unidentified Man: (French spoken)
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
BEARDSLEY: Seventy-one-year-old Pierre Le Guennec installed burglar alarms at Picasso's houses in the south of France before the artist died in 1973. Yesterday the retired electrician told French radio how he came by the art.
PIERRE LE GUENNEC: Unidentified Woman #1: (French spoken)
BEARDSLEY: Unidentified Woman #2: (French spoken)
BEARDSLEY: The existence of the artwork surfaced in September, when Le Guennec contacted Picasso's son, Claude Picasso, to get them authenticated. The day following their meeting, Claude Picasso filed a lawsuit against the couple for illegal receipt of the works. Claude Picasso spoke with Vincent Noce, an art critic who writes for the newspaper Liberation, which broke the story yesterday.
VINCENT NOCE: They've kept this secret for 40 years and now they're saying, oh, it was given to us. No, it's not legal and it's not logical. There is no way that Picasso or his wife would have given some historical pieces like this, especially to someone who was not even a friend of him.
BEARDSLEY: Noce says the art dates from Picasso's most creative period, from 1900 to 1932. It includes lithographs, watercolors and sketches, and a portrait of Picasso's first wife, ballerina Olga Khokhlova. But the most important pieces are the nine cubist collages, says Noce.
NOCE: It was made in 1912. Picasso was cutting some bits and pieces here and there. He would make sort of little paper and cardboard sculptures. And these are highly valuable. Almost all of these have disappeared.
BEARDSLEY: The collection has been seized by police and Le Guennec has spent two days in detention being questioned. But Noce says he continues to stick by his story, even though he has altered it a few times.
NOCE: The fact is that you cannot sue someone for stealing a work of art, even of this importance, so late. That's one big legal problem and this is probably why the family has waited more than 40 years to show this treasure.
BEARDSLEY: For NPR news, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.