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New York Trial Date Set and New Details Emerge in Picasso Sculpture Dispute

After Maya Widmaier-Picasso faced a setback in the French courts last month in an ongoing feud over the rights of ownership to a Pablo Picasso bust sculpture between an agent for the Qatari royal family and Gagosian Gallery, Doreen Carvajal reports in the New York Times that Picasso’s daughter faces a new legal action filed in federal court in New York claiming that she canceled a first sale of the work for about $42 million to Pelham Holdings, agents for the royal family of Qatar, and secretly and knowingly rushed to close a better deal for $106 million by transferring ownership to another buyer—Larry Gagosian of Gagosian Gallery, who in turn subsequently sold the work to New York collector Leon Black.

In Pelham’s filing, they claim the second, $106 million sale to Gagosian in May 2015 came a month after the first sale was abruptly canceled, and that the Picasso family was in such a hurry to finish the second sale to Gagosian that it made a transfer of title to the sculpture to him before he even made a final payment. Gagosian in turn also sold the sculpture to Black in a deal that would have allowed Black to take possession before that payment was fully made. Additionally, Pelham also claims that Maya Widmaier-Picasso’s daughter, Diana, received a lucrative commission from Gagosian for acting as an intermediary in the second sale. This claim is based on a one-page invoice that was gathered by Pelham, along with other documents and emails related to the second sale, after it won court approval to seek such material. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Gagosian Gallery said, “We bought and sold the sculpture in good faith and with good title.”

The case, which is also headed to trial in Geneva where the first sale took place, is scheduled for trial on September 19 in New York. The sculpture remains in Gagosian’s possession during the legal proceedings.