New York art collector gets 1931 Picasso mistress sculpture

NEW YORK, N.Y. – A 1931 sculpture of Pablo Picasso’s mistress will be owned by New York art collector Leon Black rather than the royal Qatari family after a court fight aimed at deciding who was the rightful owner ended with a settlement, parties to the deal announced Wednesday.

The settlement was the culmination of a bitter legal fight in Switzerland, France and the United States that developed after Picasso’s 80-year-old daughter, Maya Widmaier-Picasso, twice sold “Bust of a Woman,” a plaster sculpture of Marie-Therese Walter.

Earlier this year, a London-based art advisory firm, Pelham Holdings, said in court papers that Widmaier-Picasso abruptly cancelled a November 2014 sale of the sculpture for nearly $50 million with its client, Sheikh Jassim bin Abdulaziz al-Thani, and the Museums Authority of Qatar just weeks before secretly selling it again for $106 million to Black through Manhattan’s Gagosian Gallery.

An entry in Manhattan federal court records indicated a settlement was reached in May, months before a September trial, but it did not say who would own the sculpture.

A statement released Wednesday on behalf of all parties in the litigation said they were pleased to report “a good faith global settlement resolving all matters and actions” relating to the sculpture. The agreement also calls for the Picasso family to pay Pelham an undisclosed amount of money.

In a separate release, Gagosian Gallery spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said the gallery was pleased that the litigation was over and Black will get the sculpture.

“Today’s settlement shows without question that the Gagosian Gallery purchased and sold this sculpture in good faith and without any knowledge of Picasso and Pelham’s prior dealings, as we have said all along,” he said. “Today is a complete vindication of the Gallery’s position.”

The sculpture was most recently on display at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.