Electrician Brings to Light Picasso 'Treasure Trove'

Article excerpt

Pierre Le Guerrec, who kept 271 previously unknown works by Pablo Picasso in his basement-garage for decades, is now under scrutiny from the artist's heirs.

It's an art-quake in the art world: Some 271 previously unknown works by Pablo Picasso, perhaps the premier painter of the 20th century, have come to light after being stored 40 years in the Riviera garage of an electrician who worked at the artist's villas in the early 1970s.

The magnitude of the trove for art history was revealed by the Paris newspaper Liberation, which broke the story today. The canvases date from 1900 to 1932, the artist's earliest and most fertile period. They include portraits of Picasso's first wife, Olga, a watercolor from Picasso's famed "blue" period, nine inherently important Cubist collages worth tens of millions, as well as lithographs, drawings, and various studies.

The curator of the National Picasso Museum in Paris, Anne Baldassari, today described the find as "unprecedented."

The monetary value of the Picassos may be upward of $100 million, though art analysts says the historical worth transcends market value. A 1932 Picasso, "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust," sold at Christie's in May for a record $106 million. Christie's officials described the new trove as "extremely exciting" but said they are unlikely to be sold anytime soon.

The electrician who sparked a controversy

At the heart of the story is one Pierre Le Guennec, who installed alarm systems at Picasso's notoriously unprotected villas in the south of France, and claims the artist bestowed the works on him as a gift. After corresponding with the artist's son, Claude Picasso, for months, he showed up Sept. 9 at the Paris office of the Picasso estate to meet Mr. Picasso and verify the authenticity of the works. The son and experts in attendance agreed they were.

But the family disputes the works were gifts. Weeks later, police raided Mr. …