Picasso auction canceled amid mystery

PARIS (AP) - A Paris auctioneer called off the scheduled sale Thursday of a trove of drawings Picasso gave his longtime chauffeur, after a separate cache of previously unknown Picassos turned up in an electrician’s garage _ a revelation that stunned the art world.

The sale at the Drouot auction house was to have included several dozen sketches and minor Picasso works given to driver Maurice Bresnu, a brawny man nicknamed “Teddy Bear” who was close to the artist and who sometimes inspired his work late in life.

Here’s where things take a surprising twist: Since Bresnu and his wife have both died, one of the six heirs who stood to profit from the sale is a relative named Pierre Le Guennec _ a former electrician for Picasso who recently announced that he had kept 271 of the master’s creations in his garage for decades.

The electrician and his wife said the works were a gift from Picasso’s second wife, Jacqueline Roque. But the announcement _ by a man not known to be among the artist’s friends _ infuriated Picasso’s heirs, who filed a lawsuit against the French electrician, claiming “illegal possession” of the works. Police have confiscated the art.

As the investigation continues, there are still countless unanswered questions.

While the electrician’s account stunned many people, the driver is already well-known to scholars of Picasso, who died in 1973.

Christie’s already sold some of Bresnu’s Picasso collection in the 1990s. Picasso dedicated drawings to the “Teddy Bear” _ “Nounours” in French _ sometimes even drawing a little bear on them, said auctioneer Pierre Blanchet. Picasso’s daughter Maya authenticated works that were to be sold Thursday, he said.

Blanchet nonetheless postponed the auction, given the surprising family connection. He said he hopes the sale can be rescheduled soon.

“Everybody was troubled by this,” Blanchet told The Associated Press. “We decided to suspend the sale until everything is cleared up.”

Blanchet said investigators spoke to him after the auction was canceled. They looked at the works that were to have been sold but didn’t confiscate anything. Their questions were just “informational,” he said.

The police office probing the case declined to comment. Jean-Jacques Neuer, a lawyer for Picasso’s estate, declined to discuss the new twist involving the Bresnu collection.

The Le Guennecs say Picasso’s second wife gave them a trunk full of art that they kept virtually untouched until they decided to put their affairs in order for their children.

The lawyer for Picasso’s estate has described that account as absurd and says the artist would never have given so much art away so away. The find included undocumented lithographs, portraits, a watercolor and sketches.

The electrician’s wife confirmed to The AP that her husband was a cousin of Bresnu’s late wife, and that he was one of six heirs who stood to make money from the auction.

Danielle Le Guennec also told Europe 1 radio that she wanted the questions to stop.

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