Picasso’s Unmovable Feast: Pablo Picasso’s most readily accessible painting isn’t in a museum…

The Pablo Picasso stage curtain on a wall of the Four Seasons in New York, gets a cleaning in 2008. Bloomberg News

The Pablo Picasso stage curtain on a wall of the Four Seasons in New York. Bloomberg News

Terry Teachout writes:  Pablo Picasso’s most readily accessible painting isn’t in a museum. It hangs in a New York restaurant—a restaurant that is housed in a building whose owner reportedly thinks that the painting is a piece of junk and wants to get rid of it.

“I don’t want to be the judge who has a Picasso destroyed”

— Justice Matthew F. Cooper

“Le Tricorne” is a 19-foot-tall canvas that Picasso painted in 1919 for Sergei Diaghilev‘s Ballets Russes. It was originally used as a curtain for “The Three-Cornered Hat,” a now-classic ballet composed by Manuel de Falla and choreographed by Léonide Massine for which Picasso designed the sets and costumes. John Richardson, Picasso’s biographer, considers the décor for the ballet to be his “supreme theatrical achievement,” and the curtain is a priceless relic, one of the last surviving souvenirs of the most influential ballet company of the 20th century. Forty years after Picasso painted it, Philip Johnson incorporated “Le Tricorne” into his plans for the Four Seasons Restaurant, which is located in Mies van der Rohe‘s Seagram Building, a 38-story skyscraper that is itself a classic of modern architecture. Ever since the Four Seasons opened in 1959, “Le Tricorne” has hung in the entryway, where it can be seen not only by patrons but by passers-by. The interior of the Four Seasons was designated as a landmark in 1989, meaning that it can’t be altered without official approval.

End of story…right? Not even close.

Because “Le Tricorne” is a painting, it’s not a physical part of the Seagram Building. So even though it’s now owned by the New York City Landmarks Conservancy, it’s not covered by the landmark designation—and Aby Rosen, a real-estate developer whose company, RFR Holding, owns the building, wants to move it. RFR is claiming that the wall on which “Le Tricorne” was hung by Johnson is in imminent danger of collapse and needs to be rebuilt. The Museum of Modern Art has offered to store “Le Tricorne” but not to display it, and art conservators believe that the painting, which is brittle, can’t be moved without destroying it.

According to the New York Times, Mr. Rosen, an art collector who goes in for avant-garde work, doesn’t like “Le Tricorne” and would prefer to hang pieces from his own collection in the space that it currently occupies. One person actually claims to have heard him dismiss the painting as a “schmatte,” which is Yiddish for “rag.” And since Mr. Rosen owns the Seagram Building, he’s legally entitled to demand that the Landmarks Conservancy remove “Le Tricorne,” even if it fails to survive.

Justice Matthew F. Cooper of the New York State Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction last Friday preventing RFR Holding from moving the painting, which had been scheduled to be taken down two days later, until the case can be heard on March 11. “I don’t want to be the judge who has a Picasso destroyed,” he said. And Belmont Freeman, an architect who worked on a 2008 restoration of the Four Seasons, published a piece in Architectural Record claiming that RFR Holding wasn’t telling the truth when it said that the wall could collapse…

Read the rest…

WSJ.com


2 Comments on “Picasso’s Unmovable Feast: Pablo Picasso’s most readily accessible painting isn’t in a museum…”

  1. […] Pundit from another Planet Terry Teachout writes: Pablo Picasso’s most readily accessible painting isn’t in a […]

  2. […] Picasso’s Unmovable Feast: Pablo Picasso’s most readily accessible painting isn’t … (punditfromanotherplanet.com) […]


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