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Christie's Withdraws Blue Period Picasso From Auction
Pablo Picasso, Angel Fernández de Soto, 1903. Oil on canvas. © Christie's Images Ltd.

LONDON, NEW YORK.- Christie’s and The Andrew Lloyd Webber Art Foundation today announced that – with great reluctance – they will withdraw the magnificent Blue Period Portrait de Angel Fernández de Soto, 1903, that had been scheduled for sale at Christie’s New York sale of Impressionist and Modern Art this evening. The joint decision was the result of 11th-hour claims – claims that Christie’s and the Foundation believe to have no merit – about title to the picture.

Christie’s Americas president Marc Porter stated: “Despite the favorable ruling of the federal court dismissing their claims there, we have been informed by the litigant’s attorneys that they intend to file another suit in state court. A cloud of doubt has been recklessly placed on the Portrait de Angel de Soto by the litigant and his attorneys on the very eve of this long-scheduled and highly publicized sale. We have thus been compelled to withdraw the Portrait from tonight’s sale. Christie’s and our client remain confident that the underlying claim has no merit, and we reserve the right to seek damages harm caused this picture, the charity that rightfully owns it and Christie’s. We particularly regret that the plaintiff’s actions will unnecessarily delay the sale of the picture and thereby spoil the charitable purposes for which the picture was being sold by the Foundation.”

The painting is arguably one of the most important of this period in the artist’s oeuvre and is estimated at $40 – 60 million (£22 – 33 million). The portrait was to be offered by The Andrew Lloyd Webber Art Foundation with proceeds benefiting a variety of charitable purposes. Andrew Lloyd Webber would have made no personal gain from the sale.

“This is a sad day for the claimant community,” said Sarah Jackson, Historic Claims & Research Director, The Art Loss Register. “As the leading database for stolen and looted Nazi era art, we would expect that any bona fide claimant would have reached out to us over the past decade given that the picture has been so widely exhibited.”

“Holding back a claim and bringing legal action at the last minute is a reckless action and causes harm to the restitution community in general,” said Erika Jakubovits, Executive Director of the Presidency of the Jewish Community of Vienna. “Such complex matters are better addressed through orderly, timely and open discussion.”

Christie’s primary aim with art restitution, underpinned by a Company-wide awareness of the issue, is not to sell looted or spoliated art.

“As intermediaries in the art world, we have established a reputation for properly researching property consigned to us and for being sensitive to the complex issues of restitution,” continued Mr. Porter. “Christie’s has a solid record of restitution sales, the most ground-breaking of which was the Mauerbach Sale undertaken in 1996 on behalf of the Federation of the Jewish Community of Austria and benefited that organization and other victims of Nazism and Fascism at a time when no one else was prepared to help. This past spring we managed the sale of the Sunflowers sold for the Grunwald heirs and this fall are managing the sale of the celebrated Bloch-Bauer Klimts. We are repeatedly entrusted with restituted art and with such consignments comes the responsibility to reject baseless claims. We regret that the litigant deliberately chose to avoid the sort of good faith discussions that are keynote to the legitimate claimant community.”

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