By Scott Reyburn
May 14, 2018
It’s the art world’s equivalent of a man struck twice by lightning.
On Friday, the 1943 Pablo Picasso painting “Le Marin” (“The Sailor”), valued at $70 million, was “accidentally damaged” at the presale exhibition of Christie’s Tuesday evening auction of Impressionist and Modern art.
“After consultation with the consignor today, the painting has been withdrawn from Christie’s May 15 sale to allow the restoration process to begin,” the auction house said in a terse statement. “We have taken immediate measures to remedy the matter in partnership with our client. No further information is available at this time.”
The unnamed client of Christie’s had been identified by Bloomberg in April as the casino mogul Steve Wynn, who in February resigned as chairman and chief executive of Wynn Resorts as a result of sexual misconduct allegations. In 2006, Mr. Wynn, who suffers from the degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa, accidentally put his elbow through the canvas of Picasso’s celebrated 1932 masterwork “Le Rêve,” which he had agreed to sell to the billionaire hedge fund collector Steven A. Cohen for $135 million. The painting was restored and was eventually sold to Mr. Cohen in 2013 for $155 million. It is currently on show in the exhibition “Picasso 1932: Love Fame Tragedy” at Tate Modern in London.
Christie’s has not divulged the precise nature of the damage to “Le Marin,” but following the mishap, the auction house said in an email that Picasso’s 1964 painting “Femme au chat assise dans un fauteuil” (“Woman With a Cat Seated in an Armchair”), estimated at $22 million to $28 million, has also been withdrawn from the sale. This second Picasso had also been identified as being offered by Mr. Wynn. Like “Le Marin,” it had been guaranteed to sell courtesy of a third party.
Andy Warhol’s 1963 “Double Elvis (Ferus Type),” estimated at $30 million — identified by Bloomberg as Mr. Wynn’s third big-ticket consignment — will be sold by Christie’s, as scheduled, in its Thursday night contemporary sale, the auction house added in its email.
“These things happen,” Guillaume Cerutti, Christie’s chief executive, said with a resigned smile, at Sunday’s depleted exhibition of Impressionist and Modern works. He declined to make any further comment.