The judgement on the most curious Picasso Affair is due this week… here’s the story of €50 million worth of previously unknown Picassos that sat for years in a cardboard box in the garage.
Danielle and Pierre Le Guennec in front of their Mouans-Sartoux home. Photo by A.B.-J. courtesy the Nice-Matin
A treasure trove of Picassos came to light in 2010, when retired local electrician Pierre Le Guennec and his wife decided to pull out the box of little Picasso scribbles, paintings and notebooks that Picasso’s wife Jacqueline had given him 40 years ago after he installed alarm systems in Picasso’s various Riviera homes.
The almost forgotten box in the garage was ‘remembered’ when Le Guennec and his wife started thinking about wanting to leave something for their sons, so they took some photos and sent a letter to Claude Picasso, the artist’s son who manages the estate and represents Picasso’s heirs. No response. Another letter, then another… no response from Claude, who dismissed the photos as fakes and the couple as nutters.
Finally, after months with no reply, Le Guennec and his wife, both in their 70’s, stuffed as many of the original Picassos as they could (worth millions) in a shabby old suitcase, and got on the train for a 6 hour ride to Paris…!
Finally getting the attention of the Picasso Administration, the elderly couple opened the scruffy suitcase to reveal 175 of their 271 Picassos from his early years, 1900-1932. The Picasso heirs were… speechless, first assuming they had to be fakes, but then noticing the intricate numbering system known only to the artist…
How could this be? What really confounded the heirs, was that that Picasso was notoriously stingy and dedicated every single gift he ever gave… Oh yeah, except for that one other time that came to light a few years before when another former employee from the early 70’s suddenly produced a huge stash of undedicated drawings that were supposedly a gift from the master. It was a chauffeur nicknamed ‘Teddy Bear’, and he too, produced his gift of 100+ drawings years after the Picassos had died, whereupon he auctioned the works off and is now rich.
Oh, and did I mention that Teddy Bear was Le Guennec’s cousin, and got him the Picasso job in the first place? Ah yes, the plot thickens…
The Picasso children were apparently caught off guard with ol’ Teddy Bear and didn’t prosecute, but this time the Picassos promptly had the elderly couple arrested, their modest house in Mouans-Sartoux near Cannes raided, the artworks seized, and charged them with receiving stolen goods.
The Le Guennec’s have vigorously stuck to their story and are indignant at being treated as criminals: If he had stolen the works, would they really have brought them directly to the heirs? Would they really have kept them in a cardboard box in the garage for 40 years? …While living a quiet life on his modest pension? They could have slagged them off one-by-one on the black market and lived it up!
You be the judge… until later this week when the actual judge will hand down the verdict.
Photo credits: Le Guennecs by A.B.-J. courtesy of the Nice-Matin, Old Suitcase by Linda Bailey, licensed under Creative Commons.