Picasso's missing La Coiffeuse discovered in New York
A painting by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, which was stolen more than a decade ago, has been found in New York. The cubist work of art, entitled La Coiffeuse (The Hairdresser) was reported missing in 2001 when, after a loan request was put to the Centre Georges Pompidou, staff couldn’t find it.
For over ten years, there has been no sign of the oil painting, which was last seen at an exhibition at the Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung in Munich. However, over the Christmas period, quite unexpectedly, it was discovered by US Customs and Border Patrol in Long Island.
They had come across a suspicious package that had been shipped from Belgium. The parcel had been labelled Happy Christmas in French – Joyeux Noel – and noted as being an art-related object worth around £24. The actual value of the work of art is approximately £1.6 million.
“A lost treasure has been found,” Loretta Lynch, attorney for the eastern district of New York, was quoted by Reuters as saying.
“Because of the blatant smuggling in this case, this painting is now subject to forfeiture to the United States. Forfeiture of the painting will extract it from the grasp of the black market in stolen art so that it can be returned to its rightful owner.”
According to the New York Times, the parcel was shipped by an individual named as Robert, yet it is unclear whether any inroads have been made in identifying who this person is and whether or not he was involved in the original theft.
Given the fact that the sender was attempting subterfuge, it is likely that the Picasso painting was, occupying a position that was not “above board”. Again, little has emerged about who the parcel was addressed to.
Speaking to CNN, Anthony Scandiffio, deputy special agent in charge of the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), said: “The recovery of the La Coiffeuse sends a strong message to thieves that the market to sell stolen antiquities in the United States is drying up.”
“HSI is committed to using its resources to successfully investigate and, more importantly, repatriate smuggled antiquities and other protected cultural property to their rightful owners.”
La Coiffeuse was bequeathed to the National Museums of France by its former director Georges Salle in 1966, after which it was designated to the collections of the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris.
The FBI describes art and cultural property crime as akin to “stealing history”, referring to it as a “looming criminal enterprise” with estimated losses that total billions of dollars a year.
Cadogan Tate has state-of the art storage facilities in London, New York, Los Angeles, Paris and the Côte d’Azur.