Weekly Roundup: Stolen Picasso Work Seized in Newark, MFA Boston Announces Major Gift from Rothschild Heirs, and More


In case you missed it, here’s what made headlines in the art world this week:

Stolen Picasso work is seized in Newark
A Picasso painting missing from Paris for more than a decade resurfaced in the United States, where it had been shipped under false pretenses as a $37 holiday-themed “art craft.” The 1911 painting, La Coiffeuse, which translated to “The Hairdresser,” was unearthed in December in a FedEx shipment from Belgium to Newark. The canvas had been smuggled out of a storeroom of the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Paris museum and arts center, and its whereabouts had not been known. On Thursday, February 26th, the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York filed a civil forfeiture suit to return the painting to France. The work, worth millions of dollars, is owned by the French government. [New York Times]

Elizabeth Taylor’s diamond at center of legal battle
The estate of Elizabeth Taylor is suing Christie’s auction house over the 2011 auction of the late actresses’s jewelry and other precious items. At the center of the legal squabble is the famed “Taj Mahal” diamond, given to Taylor by her then-husband Richard Burton on her 40th birthday. The diamond pendant sold for more than $8 million to an anonymous buyer after Taylor died in 2011. The dispute focuses on an inscription on the piece that bears the name of the Mughal emperor’s wife. Months after the diamond’s sale, the buyer demanded the sale be canceled based on the buyer’s contention that the stone was not from the Mughal period. The auction house has demanded that Taylor’s trust return more than $7 million it received from the sale. The trustees allege the auction house has violated its agreement to auction off the estate and did so only to appease a “VIP customer”. [Los Angeles Times]

MFA Boston announces major gift from Rothschild heirs
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has received a collection of 186 objects originally owned by Baron and Baroness Alphonse and Clarice de Rothschild of Vienna–members of the celebrated Rothschild banking family. The gift includes European decorative arts, furniture, prints, drawings, paintings, and personal objects including jewelry and jeweled objects, miniatures, and rare books. Many of these works were seized in 1938 following the Anschluss, or annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany. A selection from the Rothschild collection will be on view in the exhibition Restoring a Legacy: Rothschild Family Treasures from March 1-June 21, 2015 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. [Artfixdaily]

Two Cezanne sketches found on reverse sides of watercolors
The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia has unearthed two previously unknown sketches by French post-Impressionist painter Paul Cezanne. The two sketches–one graphite and the other watercolor–were found during conservation work on the reverse sides of two Cezanne watercolors known as The Chaine de l’Etoile Mountains (1885-86) and Trees (c. 1900), both of which depict French landscapes. Museum officials believe that Albert Barnes was completely unaware the sketches existed when he bought the watercolors from American art collector Leon Stein in 1921. The newly discovered sketches will be displayed in double-sided frames, with both sides visible, from April 10th through May 18th, 2015 at the Barnes Foundation. Philadelphia Inquirer]

Rare pearl fished out of seafood stew heads to auction
A Massachusetts cop has discovered that a rare pearl he found in a seafood stew six years ago is actually worth $15,000. Officer Michael Serino and his wife kept the pearl in a jewelry box until recently, when they saw a news report on a Virginia woman who had made a similar find. He sent the pearl to the California-based Gemological Institute of America, which concluded it was a very rare specimen that had come from a northern quahog clam. The six-carat find will hit the auction block at Kaminski Auctions next month and is expected to bring in $10,000 to $15,000. [Hyperallergic]

Sculpture by world-renowned artist Jeff Koons to appear at Sacramento arena
The city of Sacramento and the Sacramento Kings have agreed to commission artist Jeff Koons to create a sculpture for outside the new downtown arena. In what is the largest budget for a public art installation in the region’s history, the Kings, the city and three team owners will pay $8 million for the art. Another $1.5 million from the Kings and local philanthropist and artist Marcy Friedman will commission work from local artists to be displayed at the arena. Koons’ sculpture will be the fifth in his “Coloring Book” collection, a series of towering stainless steel sculptures that have been displayed in some of the world’s most prominent art museums. Koons has not created the sculpture yet, but plans to have it completed by the time the area opens in October 2016. The sculpture will be 18 feet tall and 9 feet wide. [The Sacramento Bee]

Image: Detail of Pablo Picasso, La Coiffeuse, 1911