Friday, May 8, 2015

French Court Orders Picasso’s Electrician to Return Nearly 300 Artworks

A court in the town of Grasse in southern France on Friday found a retired electrician and his wife guilty of possessing 271 stolen works by Pablo Picasso, rejecting the couple’s claims that the trove of art was a gift from the artist’s wife. Pierre Le Guennec, 75, who was employed by Picasso in his home in nearby Mougins, and Le Guennec’s wife, Danielle, 72, were handed a suspended two-year jail sentence on a count of possessing stolen goods.

The court also stipulated that the works be returned to the artist’s heirs. But it did not establish who had stolen the collection of sketches, watercolors and collages that have been dated to a period ranging from 1900 to 1932. While the collection has not been officially valued, reports in the French and international press have estimated that it could be worth as much as 120 million euros, or about $130 million.

Jean-Jacques Neuer, the lawyer for Claude Ruiz-Picasso, one of the artist’s sons and the administrator of the Picasso estate, said that the six Picasso heirs represented in the suit were satisfied with the ruling. Evelyne Rees, a lawyer for the Le Guennecs, could not be reached to comment on whether her clients intended to appeal the conviction. They have always maintained that the art was a gift from Jacqueline Picasso, with her husband’s consent, in the early 1970s, when Mr. Le Guennec worked at Picasso’s home.

Mr. and Mrs. Le Guennec, both of whom took the stand at the trial, said that the works then sat untouched in a box in the garage of their home in the small town of Mouans-Sartoux for nearly 40 years. They say they decided to have them authenticated after Mr. Le Guennec was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008 and started worrying about his children’s inheritance. They took the collection to Paris in 2010 for examination by Mr. Ruiz-Picasso, who quickly recognized its authenticity and, suspecting theft, brought a suit against them that led to a formal investigation.

A Toxic Wasteland Called Home

Since he was a college student, the Houston artist Trenton Doyle Hancock has been drawing into existence a world that might be what Texas would look like if all of the state’s oil were to bubble up and turn it into a toxic zombie wasteland. Populated by creatures called Mounds, the work seems to be the residue of a postmodern fever dream, borrowing as much from museum walls (Peter Saul, Mike Kelley) as from comic-book pages (Basil Wolverton, Spain Rodriguez).

On Thursday, the Studio Museum in Harlem opens “Trenton Doyle Hancock: Skin and Bones, 20 Years of Drawing,” the first extensive look at Mr. Hancock’s drawings, collages and works on paper. Organized by Valerie Cassel Oliver of the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, the works on display, as Ms. Oliver says, “blend absurdist imagery with trenchant commentary to create a profoundly contemplative meditation on the strange fruit of intolerance.” (Through June 28, 144 West 125th Street; 212-864-4500,

This week on Popcast: Reviewing the first season of “Empire,” which came to a calamitous end on Wednesday night with a two-hour episode that – spoiler alert – featured a murder, an attempted murder, an announced pregnancy and an arrest. The show has been renewed for a second season, and it will likely take the several months before it returns to process all that happened – “Empire” moves quickly, and does not stop for explanations.

Since its premiere in January, it has been a runaway hit for Fox, and it’s beginning to have an effect in the real-life world of pop music that it depicts. It also serves as a strong rebuke to any television executives who’d argue that shows with predominantly black casts can’t have broad appeal.
This week Jon Caramanica, the host of Popcast, was joined by Gilbert Cruz, television editor of The New York Times and “Empire” hyper-enthusiast, and Justin Charity, a writer at Complex who’s written extensively on the show and its music.