Home Magazine Bye-Bye Picasso

At the beginning of April Wall Street Journal has reported the news about a rare Pablo Picasso drawing that would be privately sold through Larry Gagosian Gallery. The painting was owned by the Berlin banker Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdi, that during the Nazi persecution was forced to liquidate his private collection. But then, after a vast while lately, this rare masterpiece was purchased by the National Gallery.

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The National Gallery was forced to return a Picasso to his legitimate heirs, which in turn have left the work to Gagosian that now is offering this piece for $ 10 million dollars. The drawing in question is dating back to 1903 and is a small pastel of about 30 cm which depicts a slightly woody portrait of an androgyne woman's face with dark hair on a blue background. The title is "Head of a Woman" and was made during Picasso's first blue period when the artist was in his early twenties. The tone is melancholic one of his early works whose subjects were based on the sick and the poor.


Pablo Picasso, Head of a woman, 1903


The heirs of this Picasso's work are the descendants of Mendelssohn, and they recently obtained the work's ownership in a somewhat particular return case. Indeed, the National Gallery acquired the drawing with a donation in 2001 and, despite denying the validity of this family's return request, in the end, is forced to return the Picasso, that now is in Gagosian's hands. The museum said that this decision was made in an attempt to "avoid the heavy taxation of the dispute" and "did not constitute an acknowledgment of the merit or validity of the alleged claims". It is known that the question of restitution is always very delicate and museums are not always willing to accept its legitimacy. It would seem that the heirs had contacted the US dealer for the sale and private negotiation of the work. 

And as the Gagosian Gallery is currently closed for the coronavirus emergency, the weight of the pandemic continues to challenge the art market. Blue-chip retailers and auction houses have shifted the focus on private sales instead of live programming, and Larry Gagosian is waiting to find his perfect buyer and like other important galleries, he is launching the Spotlight project allowing to the artists to use his gallery's online portal as an open platform to present their works.

Cover image: Pablo Picasso, Head of a woman, 1903.

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