(NEW YORK) — It sounds like something out of a hidden-camera prank show, but someone made a very expensive mistake while preparing for an auction at Christie’s this week.
The New York auction house announced on Sunday that someone had “accidentally damaged” a painting by Pablo Picasso as final preparations were being made for an exhibition of the work set to be sold on May 15. The estimated price of the painting, titled “Le Marin,” according to Christie’s: a cool $70 million.
The painting, owned by casino magnate Steve Wynn, has been pulled from the auction as conservators try to make a fix.
“Two outside conservators have now been consulted and have made recommendations for the successful restoration of the painting,” Christie’s said in a statement. “After consultation with the consignor today, the painting has been withdrawn from Christie’s May 15 sale to allow the restoration process to begin.
“Christie’s has a very high standard of care for the objects entrusted to us and we have taken immediate measures to remedy the matter in partnership with our client,” the statement continued. “No further information is available at this time.”
The oil on canvas painting was dated Oct. 28, 1943 and purchased by art publisher Harry N. Abrams, the Samuel M. Kootz Gallery and Galerie Louise Leiris in 1952 for just $11,000, according to Christie’s. They made a tidy profit when it was auctioned off by Christie’s for $8.8 million in November 1997. Wynn later bought the work in a private sale.
Oddly, this isn’t the first time a Picasso owned by Wynn has been damaged. The late author Nora Ephron wrote a story for The Huffington Post in 2006 about a weekend spent in Las Vegas, staying at The Wynn, in which she described Steve Wynn accidentally sticking his elbow through Picasso’s “Le Reve.” The accident apparently tore a 6-inch hole in the work. Wynn later sold “Le Reve” — all patched up — to billionaire financier Steven A. Cohen for $155 million in 2013.
Wynn had bought “Le Reve” from banker Wolfgang Flottl, who also once owned “Le Marin,” according to Christie’s.
Wynn recently sold his stake in his casino business following reports of a dozen instances of sexual misconduct by The Wall Street Journal in January. Wynn sold all of his 12.1 million shares over two days in late March for a total value of $2.138 billion, according to The Associated Press.
“Le Marin” was set to be the second Picasso work auctioned off by Christie’s in less than a week.
Christie’s auctioned off Picasso’s painting “Young Girl with a Flower Basket” for $115 million last week. The painting was part of a large collection owned by Peggy and David Rockefeller. The couple’s family decided to auction off the painting after David’s death in March 2017. His wife Peggy died in 1996.
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