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.

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