A retired electrician and his wife have gone on trial in France over the possession of 271 allegedly stolen works of art by Picasso, which they kept in their garage for 40 years.
According to Pierre le Guennec, the world renowned artist Pablo Picasso and his wife Jacqueline had given him the Cubist collages, drawings and oil canvases when he was working on the artist’s last residence before he died in the 1970s.
The trial was held on Tuesday in southeastern French city of Grasse, and is expected to take three days.
“Picasso had total confidence in me. Maybe it was my discretion,” Le Guennec told the court. “Monsieur and Madame called me ‘little cousin’.”
He added that one day Jacqueline gave him a box containing the works of art. “She told me ‘this is for you’.”
Le Guennec opened the box at home and found “drawings, sketches, crumpled paper.”
“I didn’t have in mind that they were works of art, they were essays, torn bits, it didn’t grab me. It’s not as if I saw a painting, it’s not the same, it’s not the same reaction,” he added.
The box was put in the garage where it remained for some 40 years.
Some of Picasso’s heirs, including his son Claude, don’t believe the electrician’s story and filed a legal complaint against the pair who were charged on 2011, after the works of art were taken to the Picasso Administration for authentication.
During the trial, Claude’s lawyer, Jean-Jacques Neuer further accused Le Guennec of being the cover for “a case of international artwork laundering”.
“These stolen works were given to him because he had had ties with Picasso,” he said.
Before the trial, Neuer also pointed out that none of the pieces in Le Guennec possession were signed, which is unusual for Picasso because he always autographed his work -- whether it was given away or sold.