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Priceless Picasso works found in a garage

News18test sharma |

Updated: November 30, 2010, 11:00 AM IST
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Priceless Picasso works found in a garage
The works were impounded at Le Guennec's house last month and are currently in the custody of the French officials.

Paris: Nearly 300 works by Pablo Picasso worth tens of million euros laid untouched for decades in a cardboard box in the garage of a retired electrician in the south of France who said on Friday they were a gift from from the wife of the late artist.

The claims by retired electrician Pierre Le Guennec came as members of the Picasso Administration which represents his heirs and runs his estate, confirmed that the works, which include paintings, notes and drawings, had been impounded by the judiciary pending the outcome of a probe as to who is the legal owner.

The spectacular discovery came last September, when Le Guennec visited the Picasso Administration to have the works officially certified, an essential step before re-selling them. Officials at the Picasso Administration were stunned when he took out a range of works, which they estimate at more than 60 million euros.

But they said they quickly became suspicious when they learnt that Le Guennec had been employed by the Picassos in the early 1970s, shortly before the artist's death, and have filed an official complaint seeking judicial clarification as to who owns the pieces.

"The Picasso heirs, who were contacted over this episode, have, by the filing of an official complaint, decided to ask the judiciary to look at this matter and to find out what happened in the period described by this gentleman and his wife," said Claudia Andrieu, the Picasso Administration's legal affairs director.

Picasso's son Claude was present at the first meeting when Le Guennec pulled out the works. "They brought all the pieces and they put them on the table. And when Mr. Picasso saw all those pieces in true, he was in shock because he was facing true original pieces from Picasso, from his father," Andrieu said.

The works were impounded at Le Guennec's house last month and are currently in the custody of the French body responsible for preventing smuggling of works or art. French courts will now have rule over the ownership.

Le Guennec says he did nothing wrong and told Reuters Television they were a gift. "It's Madame (Picasso) who gave them. But if Madame gave them, Monsieur was aware of it. She wasn't going to do that just like that, was she?" he said through the garden railings of his small house tucked between Cannes and Grasse in the south of France.

He said he was given the paintings and he stuck them in a box in his garage. "I didn't really pay attention to it," he said, adding that he had nowhere to put the works in his humble, one-bedroom abode. "What do you want me to do with them? Where do you want me to put them? We've only got one room. So it stayed in a box with the other boxes that I have, from my job," he said.

Judicial wrangling over who the rightful owner of the works is could last for decades.

First Published: November 30, 2010, 11:00 AM IST
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