Stolen Picasso painting found in New Jersey makes its way back to Paris museum
Pablo Picasso's 'La Coiffeuse,' seen in a protective plastic cover, is displayed at the French Embassy in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement returned the stolen painting, valued at $15 million, that was stolen in 1998 and was seized in December 2014. (AP / Andrew Harnik)
The Associated Press
Published Thursday, September 24, 2015 10:35AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 24, 2015 12:52PM EDT
PARIS -- A $15 million Pablo Picasso painting is back on display in a Paris museum after a long and unusual journey.
"La Coiffeuse" ("The Hairdresser") disappeared from a French storage room more than a decade ago, then turned up in a package from Belgium to New York last year -- with a customs label calling it a $37 Christmas gift.
Its recovery is an unusual success story. A top French government minister and the U.S. ambassador attended the unveiling Thursday at the abstract painting's new home at the Pompidou Center museum in Paris.
The investigation into who sent the package and how the painting was stolen is still underway. After the seizure, U.S. authorities said the small artwork, painted in 1911, endured minor damages and need restoring.
"It was such a moment of joy when I was told that this painting was found again," said Olivier Picasso, a grandson of the painter, calling the discovery important for art history.
French Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin contrasted Thursday's "happy event" with the darker side of most art theft -- including the pillaging by Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria.
"The battle against trafficking in artwork ... also sees unfortunate events, dramatic ones even, such as the systematic and perfectly organized pillaging that the Islamic State group is committing in Iraq and Syria," she said. "We (also) know that this terrorist group nourishes itself through the dismemberment and sale of objects taken from sites of antiquity such as that of Palmyra."