A sculpture of Pablo Picasso’s mistress and model, Marie-Therese Walter, on view in a current exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, has leaped into the limelight with a court battle over ownership.
Picasso’s 1931 sculpture Bust of a Woman was purchased by gallery owner Larry Gagosian, according to a court filing, for $106 million last year and he says a new buyer is ready to acquire the work from him. Gagosian's deal is threatened by Pelham Europe Ltd., whose founder Guy Bennett, contends that he purchased the bust for about $42 million through an intermediary called Connery Pissarro Seydoux SAS.
Bennett is a former international head of the Impressionist and modern art evening sales at Christie’s International Plc. and consults for the Qatar royal family on acquisitions.
The New York Times first reported that Gagosian says his ownership of the work transpired on Oct. 2, when his third installment of funds paid 75 percent of the purchase rpice for the work to the artist’s daughter Maya Widmaier-Picasso and his granddaughter, Diana Widmaier-Picasso. A $6 million payment from Pelham was previously returned in full, claims Widmaier-Picasso.
Pelham has threatened to have the work removed from MoMA, Gagosian says. A judge has ordered papers proving Gagosian's correspondence with the seller about the purchase by Feb. 29. Gagosian and Diana Widmaier-Picasso will be questioned about the case on April 1, according to court documents