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Art Anecdotes : When Steve Wynn elbowed Picasso’s Le Rêve

Through ART ANECDOTES, Art From Us brings you funny, heart-warming and sometimes heartbreaking stories that shape Artists and their work. Today we look at When Steve Wynn elbowed Picasso’s Le Rêve.

Art From Us and Divvya Nirula bring to you a curated collection of Art related events, from suspected murder, to love affairs, to grand theft and curious cases of creation through ART ANECDOTES. Join us on this fun-filled ride of exploring and reliving these art-tales.

Picasso’s Le Rêve

In 1932, Picasso rendered a portrait of his then mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter and entitled the painting Le Rêve.

Fast-forwarding to the year 2006, when the painting’s then owner, the American art collector and casino magnate Steve Wynn decided to sell the masterpiece to his close friend and hedge-fund mogul, Steve Cohen for a meagre sum of $139 million, which was the highest price known to be quoted for a work of art at the time.

After having the work removed from its frame for scrutiny and appraisal by a professional, Cohen was satisfied with its authenticity and transferred the money to Wynn. All that remained was the actual transfer of the work itself.

The Unfortunate Incident

The weekend of the sale, Wynn happened to have some friends over from New York. When he boasted to them about the sale, they insisted on having a look at the piece. Wynn was happy to oblige. He not only took them to his office when it hung, but animatedly elaborated upon the work’s story and provenance, just like any good museum guide, facing his audience and with his back towards the work.

In all his excitement, as he stepped back to perhaps point to something in the piece, Wynn made one smooth gesture with his right hand that ended with his elbow tearing through the painting’s surface, accompanied by a distinct ripping sound. A moment of silence – the piece that was worth millions a minute ago, now had a gaping hole measuring 2 inches. The group present in the room unanimously decided never to speak of the incident again –  until of course, one of them leaked the story to The Post a week later. The deal with Cohen was called off until the extent of the damage could be ascertained.

Of the incident, Wynn said,

“My feeling was, its a picture, we’ll fix it. Nobody got sick or died. It’s a picture. It took Picasso five hours to paint it”. His wife on the other hand took this incident as a sign and didn’t allow Wynn to sell the painting (at least for then.)

The painting itself had been superbly restored. experts believe that one who doesn’t know of the incident would never be able to tell the difference.

Visit the Archive for Art Anecdotes.

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