Qatari Royal Family and Gagosian Settle Picasso ‘Bust of a Woman’ Suit

Picasso’s Bust of a Woman. Photographer: Katya Kazakina/Bloomberg

Picasso’s Bust of a Woman. Photographer: Katya Kazakina/Bloomberg

A settlement was reached in an international legal drama over Picasso’s plaster “Bust of a Woman” pitting two of the world’s biggest art buyers against each other, New York billionaire Leon Black versus a member of Qatar’s royal family.

But who now owns the 1931 sculpture, depicting the artist’s then-mistress and muse, Marie-Therese Walter, remains a secret because details of the accord weren’t disclosed in a filing Monday in New York federal court, and neither side is talking.

The artwork was for years a prized possession of Maya Widmaier Picasso, a daughter born of the artist’s affair with Walter. Art gallery owner Larry Gagosian has claimed he agreed to buy the sculpture for $106 million last year to resell it to Black.

Gagosian’s deal was jeopardized by a claim from an agent for Sheikh Jassim bin Abdul Aziz Al-Thani and the Qatar Museums Authority who said they already struck a deal in 2014 to purchase the work for 38 million euros ($47.4 million at the time of the sale) from Widmaier Picasso in a transaction negotiated by her son.

The two sides filed competing lawsuits this year in Manhattan federal court.

“It having been reported to this court that these actions have been or will be
settled, these actions are discontinued without costs to any party,” U.S. District Judge William Pauley said in a three-paragraph order Monday, adding that either side can ask the court to reopen the dispute within 30 days.

A spokesman for the Gagosian Gallery, a lawyer representing Qatar’s agent and an attorney for Widmaier Picasso declined to comment on the settlement.

The highest price ever paid for a Picasso sculpture at auction is $29.2 million, for a 1941 bronze head of another of the artist’s lovers, Dora Maar, that sold in 2007, according to Artnet’s price database.

The cases are Gagosian Gallery Inc. v. Pelham Europe Ltd., and Pelham Europe Ltd. v. Gagosian, 16-cv-00214 U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).