Controversy and legal action surrounds 'lost' $79m Picasso art collection

Three months have passed since an electrician in his 70s from Côte d'Azur, calling himself Pierre Le Guennec, walked into the Paris office of Claude Picasso, son of Pablo. In his arms he carried a suitcase containing 175 'lost' Pablo Picasso works.

The works date to the most revolutionary and impoverished years of Picasso's early career

Since the elderly man brought the paintings to the Picasso Administration on September 9, a great deal of fascination and value has been attached to the collection. There is little doubt that the pieces are genuine; they are each marked with a numbering system known only to Picasso himself.

Also remarkable is that they date to 1900-1932, the most revolutionary and impoverished years of the Spanish painter's career during his early days in Paris (stories from this time include that the broke young artist once burned his paintings to keep warm).

While Le Guennec has claimed that the works - including gouaches, lithographs and pencil sketches in notebooks - were gifted to him and his wife, others were less convinced. Suspicions were increased after a police raid on Le Guennec's home uncovered a total of 271 items.

Big Picasso sales to have emerged in this year's markets include Buste de Femme d'après Cranach le Jeune, from 1958


Though he was generous, Picasso and his last wife Jacqueline were famously protective of his works. They meticulously dated and signed any which were given away as gifts. No such markings are evident in Le Guennec's collection.

Le Guennec, who says the pieces were given to him after he installed burglar alarm systems in Picasso and Jacqueline's various homes in Cannes, Notre Dame and elsewhere, was taken into police custody and later released without charge.

Each individual Picasso work or sketch offers a singular and essential piece of his autobiography

The Picasso family has since launched legal proceedings "against X", a French procedure which allows police and magistrates to investigate multiple suspects. (It wouldn't be the first case of Picasso theft to have emerged this year.)

Suggestions that the works were gifted by Jacqueline after Picasso's lifetime (she died in 1986) have also been dismissed by the family.

Picasso's works, 1900-1932: A revolutionary period in art

According to reports, the Picasso collection held by Le Guennec all these years includes nine Cubist collages, a watercolour from his renowned 'blue period', 97 unseen drawings, 59 photographs, and several notebooks.

The collages alone have been valued at €40m ($52,766,400), with the whole collection given a low estimated value of €60m ($79,149,600). Not surprisingly, art collectors and enthusiasts the world over are fervently excited by the works and their perceived magic.

Each Picasso work - like this ink and wash drawing - has vital significance, and this is integral to the value and fascination his works hold among art buyers


This is aided by the fact that, unlike many of his contemporaries, Picasso didn't produce art intended to demand analysis of depth or subtext. Instead, his works revelled in whimsy and materialism with Picasso often dashing off ingenious doodles over the breakfast table.

As a result, an individual Picasso work or sketch offers a singular and essential piece of his autobiography. Picasso recognised this himself, as evidenced in his meticulous dating and cataloguing of everything he produced.

Each Picasso piece that appears on the markets is therefore greeted with fascination; be it a rare, obscure sketch or a decorated plate. This places his works among the most diverse and rewarding alternative assets available on the markets.

The rewards held by the materially valuable and historically priceless 'lost' Picasso collection have yet to be revealed, and will be much anticipated by collectors.


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