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Thu 14 Jan 2016 01:47 PM

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Qatar's royal family drawn into $100m Picasso dispute

Agent acting on behalf of royal family and a major US art dealer are in dispute over who bought the piece from the artist's daughter

Qatar's royal family drawn into $100m Picasso dispute

Qatar’s royal family is at the centre of a legal dispute over a Picasso sculpture valued at over $100 million.

The battle between the Qatari royal family and major art dealer Larry Gagosian is in relation to Bust of a Woman, a 1931 rendering of the artist's muse Marie-Thérèse Walter.

Both parties have claimed that they bought the piece, which is currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, from Picasso’s 80-year-old daughter Maya Widmaier-Picasso, according to the New York Times.

The issue came to public prominence this week after the Gagosian Gallery went to court this week in New York to file a legal action against Pelham Holdings, an agent for the Qatari royal family.

According to papers filed, the gallery claim that it bought the sculpture for $105.8 million in May last year.


However, Pelham has said that it agreed in November 2014 to buy the piece for $42 million, and had already handed over $6.5 million.

Gagosian Gallery questioned why Picasso's daughter would give "supposed consent to such an unreasonably low price" as $42 million.

Matthew Dontzin, a lawyer for the gallery, told the New York Times: “Buying at this price would have given Pelham an instant $60 million-plus windfall at Maya’s expense. Under plain English, Pelham never took title of the work."

It was also claimed that Widmaier-Picasso had contested the sale to the Qatari royal family and returned his $6.5 million, when she was reminded by her daughter that she had gotten other offers over $100 million. The sale to the Qataris was reportedly declared null and void, before the piece was sold to Gagosian.

Larry Gagosian, owner of the gallery, told the newspaper that not with the Qatari royal family itself, but with Pelham.

“We have the highest respect for Sheikh al-Thani, a long-time friend of the gallery, and regret that he has been unfairly drawn into this matter,” he said.

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