While there have been plenty of stories regarding priceless Picassos being stolen from museums, the Guardian offers the recent story of a museum finding a Picasso that they forgot that they had. The Evansville Museum in Indiana has recently revealed that due to a cataloging error close to fifity years ago, their work by Picasso, Woman Seated with a Red Hat had been attributed to the fictious artist “Gemmaux” and languished in storage close to half a century. Gemmaux refers to the medium of the crushed glass applied to the canvas.
It appears that the staff of the Evansville Museum were alerted to the fact that they might be in possession of the Picasso when a member of the New York auction house Guernsey’s contacted the museum while doing research on Picasso’s gemmaux works. He was known to do about 50 of such works in the early 1950s. The work was purchased by industrialist and designer Raymond Loewy and gifted to the museum in 1963. The Guardian writes,
“It sparkles like a jewel,” said John Streetman, executive director of the Evansville Museum.
He added: “It was undoubtedly a unique set of circumstances that uncovered this treasure within our museum.”
But due to the expense of having to display, preserve and protect the piece from thieves, the museum’s trustees have opted to hand over Seated Woman with Red Hat to Guernsey’s to sell on the open market.
“Now that we have a full understanding of the requirements and additional expenses to display, secure, preserve and insure the piece, it is clear those additional costs would place a prohibitive financial burden on the museum,” said Steve Krohn, president of the museum’s board of trustees.
The Evansville Museum is currently undergoing an ambitious expansion project which is expected to be completed in 2013. Phase fourt of the five phase project includes a $15 million planetarium that is expected to be finished next month. The museum has agreed to have Guersey’s sell the the painting privately and has been quiet about the expected proceeds, however some experts believe that it could fetch as much as $10 million. The Indiana Economic Digest writes,
Under the museum’s code of ethics, any proceeds from the sale of art must be used for acquisition of collections or care of collections. Revenue from the Picasso sale wouldn’t appear a likely source to help finish the museum’s $17.5 million “Reaching for the Stars” renovation and expansion funding campaign.
Krohn said he was concerned news of the potential sale might give a wrong impression about the museum’s continuing need for public, private and corporate support.
“This does not mean the museum has some pot of gold we found at the end of a rainbow, and we no longer need to depend upon contributors,” he said.
All that glitters is not gold, however in this case the painting that glitters does indeed appear to be gold.