$15M Picasso Sent as $37 Xmas Gift Returns Home

1911 painting was stolen more than 10 years ago from French storage room
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 24, 2015 1:44 PM CDT
$15M Picasso Sent as $37 Xmas Gift Returns Home
France's Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin, left, and Jane D. Hartley, US Ambassador to France, pose next to "La Coiffeuse" during a presentation in Paris yesterday.   (Francois Mori)

A $15 million Pablo Picasso painting is back on display in a Paris museum after a long and unusual journey. La Coiffeuse (The Hairdresser) disappeared from a French storage room more than a decade ago, then turned up in a package from Belgium to New York last year—with a customs label calling it a $37 Christmas gift. A top French government minister and the US ambassador attended the unveiling yesterday at the abstract painting's new home at the Pompidou Center museum in Paris. US authorities say the small artwork, painted in 1911, endured minor damage and needs restoring. "It was such a moment of joy when I was told that this painting was found again," says Olivier Picasso, a grandson of the painter, calling the discovery important for art history.

French Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin, however, contrasts yesterday's "happy event" with the darker side of most art theft, including the pillaging by Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria. "The battle against trafficking in artwork ... also sees unfortunate events, dramatic ones even, such as the systematic and perfectly organized pillaging that the Islamic State group is committing in Iraq and Syria," she says. "We [also] know that this terrorist group nourishes itself through the dismemberment and sale of objects taken from sites of antiquity such as that of Palmyra." The investigation into who sent the package and how the painting was stolen is still underway. (Read more Pablo Picasso stories.)

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