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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

le rêve

I assume at this point that most of you have heard of the recent scandal involving casino magnate, Steve Wynn and the 1932 Picasso painting known as Le Rêve, or The Dream. Before I go into specifics about what actually happened a few weeks ago, let me get all Former Art History Major and quickly set the stage - as far as the importance of this painting is concerned.

In the fall of 1997 Christie's auctioned off a collection of modern and contemporary art which, all told brought in $206.5 million - the largest take for a single session art auction in history. The artwork in question included major pieces by Pablo Picasso, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Eva Hesse and Frank Stella to name a few - and was one of the most famous private, American art collections. The proprietors of the collection were Victor and Sally Ganz, a high profile New York couple. Mr. Ganz ran D. Lisner & Company, his family's costume jewelry business, and was a former Trustee and Vice President of the Whitney Museum.

The painting that brought in the most from that auction was Picasso's Le Rêve, a portrait of his mistress, Marie-Therese Walter. In 1941 the Ganzes purchased the painting for $7,000. Before it was put up on the block, it's pre-auction estimate was set at $30 million. After a substantial bidding war, an anonymous caller won the painting - paying $48.4 million. This was more than double what was paid two years earlier for Le Miroir - another 1932 Picasso portrait of the same woman. To say the least, $48.4 million was a bit of a shock to the art community because nothing from that decade had fetched anything even close to that number. It also considerably progressed the buying market for Picasso paintings. As it turns out, the anonymous winner of Le Rêve was the casino magnate Steve Wynn, whose own private art collection includes numerous Picasso paintings as well as major works by Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Renoir, Monet, Matisse, Gauguin and even Warhol.

Of Wynn's many pieces of art, Le Rêve is his favorite - so much so that he nearly named his new Las Vegas hotel after it. He eventually decided to name the hotel after himself, but decided to name the hotel's Cirque de Soleil show after the beloved painting. Fastforward to this month. Steve Wynn had just engineered a deal with Steven Cohen, a prominent art collector to whom he planned on selling the painting for $139 million. This deal would have surpassed the recent sale of Klimt's 1907 portrait Adele Bloch-Bauer I. by $4 million, to become the most expensive painting ever sold.

Cohen is a
hedge fund manager, who has made the news in the past few years for the voracity with which he has taken the art world by storm - paying huge sums of money for some serious art. Most recently he made the news for his acquisition of Damien Hirst's shark - the one that is completely deteriorating, and in need of some major restoration.

A few weekends ago, Bawbwa Wawas was visiting Las Vegas with some girlfriends including Nora Ephron and Georgette Mosbacher. The ladies were staying at Steve Wynn's eponymous hotel and were led by Steve on a private tour of his art collection. While he showed the ladies his prized Le Rêve, Wynn told the ladies about the deal that he had just put together with Cohen. According to a recent blog post by Nora Ephron -
He raised his hand to show us something about the painting -- and at that moment, his elbow crashed backwards right through the canvas. There was a terrible noise.

Wynn stepped away from the painting, and there, smack in the middle of Marie-Therese Walter's plump and allegedly-erotic forearm, was a black hole the size of a silver dollar - or, to be more exactly, the size of the tip of Steve Wynn's elbow -- with two three-inch long rips coming off it in either direction. Steve Wynn has retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that damages peripheral vision, but he could see quite clearly what had happened.

"Oh shit," he said. "Look what I've done."

Yeah, oh shit - look what you've done! Needless to say, the $139 million deal is off. Wynn apparently took this as a sign, and has decided to keep the painting. An art restorer currently has the painting and has said that when he is done with his work (in 6-8 weeks), that no one will ever be able to tell. If you're interested in reading more about this kerfuffle, check out this article in The New Yorker. Now please excuse me - I need to go cut myself.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow! thx for all the info!

10/18/2006 8:23 PM  

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