Picasso’s stepdaughter Catherine Hutin-Blay accuses top Paris art dealer Olivier Thomas of stealing works he was paid to transport
By Rory Mulholland in Paris
French prosecutors are investigating a top Paris art dealer after Pablo Picasso’s stepdaughter filed charges against him for allegedly stealing artworks that he was meant to be transporting and storing on her behalf.
News of the arrest came hours after a Picasso masterpiece, Les femmes d’Alger, sold for a world record auction price of $179 million (£116 million) in New York.
The suspect, Olivier Thomas, is a business partner of a Swiss art dealer who was recently charged with defrauding the Russian oligarch Dimitry Rybolovlev, the owner of Monaco football club, in one of the biggest cases of alleged fraud to hit the global art market.
Catherine Hutin-Blay, the only daughter of Picasso’s second wife Jacqueline, filed the legal complaint against Mr Thomas in March this year, the Paris prosecutor’s office told The Telegraph.
She believes that some of the works the art dealer was hired to transport have gone missing. Prosecutors would not say which works were involved nor give their estimated value.
New York auction of post-war and contemporary art gives Sotheby’s its biggest take yet
Art collectors dug deep into their pockets on Wednesday and smashed records for a second straight night as Sotheby’s held the biggest auction in its history, led by a record-setting $105 million (€78 million) work by Andy Warhol.
The auction of postwar and contemporary art totalled $380.6 million (€283 million) and set new auction records for major artists Cy Twombly and Brice Marden.
Of the 61 lots on offer only seven failed to sell. The total was just shy of the $394 million high pre-sale estimate and marked the auction house’s second solid success in a row after it scored with a $290 million sale of Impressionist and modern art a week ago.
The sale’s expected highlight far exceeded expectations. Warhol’s Silver Car Crash (Doubled Disaster), from his seminal death and disaster series, soared to $105,445,000 including commission, 50 per cent higher than the late pop artist’s previous auction record of $71.7 million.
Sotheby’s did not disclose the buyer, who was bidding by telephone. It had estimated the nearly 2.7m by 4.2m work from 1963 to sell for “in excess of $60 million” but that figure turned out to be the opening bid.