Russian billionaire, Dmitry Rybolovlev, has handed over two of his multimillion dollar art purchases to French authorities on allegations that they were stolen. The billionaire art collector had purchased the watercolor paintings from a Swiss art dealer for a sum of €27 million in 2013.
The two watercolor paintings by famous artist Pablo Picasso depict a Spanish Woman with a Fan and a Woman Arranging Her Hair. However, Catherine Hutin-Blay, step-daughter of Picasso and whose mother posed for two paintings, alleges that these were stolen from her collection two years ago.
Rybolovlev said that he purchased the art paintings from art merchant Yves Bouvier. He invited the press to take photos of the paintings before handing them over to the French authorities saying that he did not know that the paintings were stolen when he purchased them from the art dealer, stressing that he “wish[es] to see the truth come out” regarding the precious works of art.
The portrait depicts Jacqueline Picasso, the last wife of the famed painter. The painting possessed an immense emotional and artistic value to her daughter Catherine Hutin-Blay.
Hutin Blay has publicly denied giving consent to the sale of the paintings or having received any money for the art. The art dealer who the Russian billionaire purchased the paintings from was charged with handling stolen goods with the court ordering him to pay back the value of the paintings to the Russian as the case continues.
However, in the latest twist to the painting drama that has made global headlines, Bouvier denied having stolen the watercolors from Hutin-Blay’s private collection. He said that the watercolor paintings along with 58 other drawings were purchased from a trust in Liechtenstein that represented Hutin-Blay.
In an interview with the New York Times, Bouvier says that he is not crazy. He would never sell stolen art to his biggest client who has purchased two billion Euros worth of art from him. Only a fool would make a deal like this.
He claims that the art drama is staged by Rybolovlev himself in retaliation to a bitter dispute between them when the tycoon accused him of selling him overpriced artworks.
Over the past ten years, Bouvier had sold about 37 major artworks to Rybolovlev valued at €2 billion. He is not just an art dealer but also organizes offshore storage of art pieces of rich collectors in low tax countries such as Luxemburg, Singapore, and Switzerland.
Rybolovlev, whose art collection consists of paintings by various well known artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Auguste Rodin, and Claude Monet, had accused Bouvier of fraud in January this year stating that he had sold the paintings at inflated prices instead of finding the best price and taking a 2% commission.
According to Rybolovlev’s lawyers, Bouvier pocketed billions of Euros due to the inflated prices. However, the outcome of the case will depend on the decision that is expected to be made on 12 November in Monaco.