BERLIN: A Picasso stolen from the yacht of Saudi businessman Abdul Mohsen Addulmalik al-Sheikh in 1999 and which had been used as collateral by criminals has been tracked down by Dutch stolen art detective Arthur Brand.
Buste de Femme, a portrait of Picasso’s lover Dora Maar, painted just a year after Guerníca in 1938, was a personal favourite of the artist who didn’t sign because it was never meant to be sold. It ended up at the Pace Gallery in New York after his death where the sheik bought it for $4m. It is now worth an estimated $25m.
In an interview with the Volkskrant Brand, whose most recent exploit was finding two stolen Spanish Visigoth carvings , said he started following up leads concerning ‘a ship and a Picasso’ in 2015 but they didn’t come to anything.
Acting on a tip off from one of his informers from the criminal circuit, Brand came into contact with a ‘Quote500’ businessman, who told him he had had the painting in his possession as a result of a deal with ‘certain people’ with an accompanying ‘cock and bull story’ but has since ‘gotten rid of it’.
Brand says people he spoke to said the painting has been used as collateral in the Dutch criminal circuit since 2002. Contacts later told Brand the painting was hanging on the wall of another businessman who also wanted it gone.
‘They daren’t go to the police. How are they going to explain the situation? They are afraid they may be accused of theft. And then they come to me,’ Brand told the paper.
Not a crime
In the event the businessman turned the painting over on the reassurance that the statute of limitations had passed on the theft and that a voluntary return would be a civil matter, not a crime.
The painting, which, uninsured, spent a night on the wall of Brand’s Amsterdam flat, is still in good shape.
‘Another two years and it would have been a different story. They way is was used, as collateral in deals means it was stored in damp cellars and trunks of cars. The colours would have faded and the canvas might break up. But we were just in time,’ Brand said.
Brand told the paper he had tried to contact the owner of the painting but had heard nothing so far. ‘It’s a pity because it’s a bit of a miracle that it turned up at all. I don’t think the sheik ever expected to clap eyes on it again.’
The painting is now being held by an insurance company, which will decide what to do next.
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