On Tuesday, June 9th a theft at the Picasso Museum in Paris was reported, sparking a worldwide search and an institutional reevaluation of museum security. The item, a red notebook containing 33 pencil drawings executed between 1917 and 1924, was locked in a glass case on the second floor of the museum. The notebook, dating from one of Picasso’s most important creative periods, is estimated to be worth 11 million dollars. The museum has currently closed pending the investigation and has not commented on the theft.
There is little risk of overstating the importance of Pablo Picasso in the cannon of modern art; everything from the visual innovations associated with cubism to the politically motivated and brilliantly executed work Guernica testify to the artist’s lifelong commitment to beauty and innovation. The worldwide media attention testifies to the great importance of even the most, minute shreds of such a great artist’s legacy.
Picasso’s work has long been the target of theft. Like other valuable commodities his work has been sought after through legitimate and illicit avenues. Recent notable thefts of Pablo Picasso’s artwork include paintings and drawings stolen from the artist’s granddaughter in 2007 and seven paintings stolen from a Zurich gallery in 1997. Thankfully the artwork from both cases has been recovered, inspiring hope that this valuable piece also has the chance of being available to the public again.
The Musée Picasso in Paris houses some of the most noteworthy and recognizable pieces of the artist’s works, with artistic phases of the 1920’s and 30’s particularly well represented. In total, the museum has in its collection 203 paintings, 158 sculptures, 88 ceramic pieces, 1,500 drawings, and an assortment of sketchbooks and prints. Picasso originally donated the artwork in 1968 as a means of settling inheritance taxes for his heirs in an act known as Dation en Paiement in which the French government accepts pieces of art relevant to its cultural heritage. Besides the artwork produced by Picasso himself is artwork the artist had accumulated over the years, including work by artists such as Braque, Cezanne, Degas, Rousseau, and Matisse.
The tragic loss of such a valuable piece of Picasso’s legacy serves as a reminder to cultural institutions and private collectors alike, notably that they are responsible for protecting and maintaining the integrity of a cultural heritage that belongs to the world. Paintings, drawings, sculptures, and even notebooks are artist’s most tangible legacy, one that thieves might find irresistible given their value. It also serves as an example of how important even the smallest and least visible piece can have tremendous monetary and cultural value. Owning a piece of art deemed culturally and historically significant has always been a true hallmark of wealth, not in the least because the collectors have in their possession a concrete example of the artist’s work first hand.
A story such as the theft of the Picasso sketchbook drives home the importance of inquiring about the value of important cultural objects and then properly insuring them in the case of theft or damage. MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. can help you discover the true value of your prized possessions both for the sake of curiosity and coverage. If you have cherished cultural artifacts it is important to have an accurate assessment of their worth for insurance purposes.
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The Associated Press, Picasso Book of Sketches Stolen from Paris Museum. Accessed
Seckel, Helene. Musee Picasso: Visitor’s Guide. Paris: Reunion des Musees Nationaux,
Image credited to the City of Paris Website: Accessed 6/10/2009