Export ban on Picasso painting worth $39m

Head Of A Young Woman, painted in 1906, is considered a national treasure in Picasso’s native Spain.
Head Of A Young Woman, painted in 1906, is considered a national treasure in Picasso’s native Spain.PHOTO: DOUANE

MADRID • A Picasso worth more than €25 million (S$39 million) that was seized from a yacht off the French island of Corsica was transferred to a Madrid museum on Tuesday.

The painting, which was subject to a Spanish export ban, had been seized by French customs at the end of last month.

On Tuesday, a team of Spanish police experts in national heritage flew to Corsica to retrieve the painting and escorted it to the Reina Sofia Museum, which houses Picasso's large anti-war masterpiece Guernica, a police statement said. They were accompanied by an art restorer and an expert in packaging art works from the museum.

"The painting will be stored in a warehouse of the museum until we know more about its destiny," a museum spokesman said.

Entitled Head Of A Young Woman, the 1906 work is estimated by Spanish police to be worth €26.2 million and considered a national treasure in Picasso's native Spain.

It is owned by Mr Jaime Botin, a well-known Spanish banker whose family founded the Santander banking group.

On July 31, French customs agents seized the painting from a British-flagged yacht off Corsica, halting what they said was an attempt to export it to Switzerland.

Mr Botin, 79, had been trying since 2012 to obtain authorisation to export the painting, but the culture ministry refused because there was "no similar work on Spanish territory" from the same period in Picasso's life.

In May, a top Spanish court sided with the authorities and declared the work of art "unexportable" on the grounds that it was of "cultural interest".

Mr Botin's lawyers have argued that the work should not be subjected to an export ban as it had been painted abroad and acquired in London and was on board a British-flagged vessel.

When customs officials boarded the yacht, its captain presented only two documents - one of which was the court ruling ordering that the painting be kept in Spain.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2015, with the headline 'Export ban on Picasso painting worth $39m'. Print Edition | Subscribe