Question of Trust: Rediscovered Picasso to Sell

On August 14, 2012, the board of trustees of the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science in Indiana voted to sell a work by Pablo Picasso they did not know they had until recently.  What would you do if you learned that one of the works in your storage was a Picasso? and a gift from the artist?

In the case of the Evansville Museum, the decision was easy “Seated Woman with Red Hat” (“Femme assise au chapeau rouge”) executed around 1954-1956 would be too expensive to house, display and secure properly. Thus, they chose to sell it through a private sale with assistance of a New York auction house, Guernsey’s.  The decisions to sell and the chose of the agent to do it are unconventional. So is the work, which is not a painting but a gemmail, an enamel on glass intended to be illuminated from behind, to produce layered effect. Apparently Picasso produced about 50 of gemmaux in his lifetime. This particular work was purchased by Raymond Loewy, who presented it to the museum. At the time of the gift, the author’s name was confused with the technique and the work was cataloged as by “Gemmaux.” It was never displayed since the 1960s.

A special advisory panel appointed by the president of the museum’s board of trustees came together to determine what to do with the newly rediscovered Picasso and what action would be in the best interest of the museum.  They recommended to sell the piece, which may or may not be in the best interest of the museum. The executive director of the Museum, John Streetman was quoted as saying that “This was a difficult but prudent decision to move forward with deaccession.”

The Museum has not decided what to do with the proceeds from the sale, but it has no other Picassos in its collection and unlikely to acquire one for its permanent collection. The art collection includes works mostly by American painters such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Paul Cadmus, Janet Fish, William Bailey and others.

Source: Art Daily.

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