Monday, January 29, 2007

"The strangest art story of the year grows stranger yet"

Art historian Michael J. Lewis has some questions about Steve Wynn's insurance claim for his damaged Picasso. He first wonders about "the peculiar sequence of events":

"[O]ne day the purchase agreement for the painting is signed, establishing its market value, and the next day the painting is mutilated before a large gathering of witnesses, instantly reducing its value and—in Wynn’s view—earning him a check for the difference.

"Equally strange are the mechanics of the damage to the painting. An elbow thrust, however fierce or well-aimed, is not likely puncture a linen canvas. Paintings are not stretched tight as a drum and have a certain degree of give, and the tendency of the fabric when struck by a blunt instrument is to dent or else to give way where it is nailed to the stretcher. In order to confirm this, I asked a painter friend to take a taut canvas and see if he could pierce it with his elbow. Working with heavy cotton duck canvas (a weaker fabric than the Belgian linen that Picasso likely used), he was only able to put a bowl-shaped depression into the canvas, despite repeated attempts."

He concludes: "The insurers will be investigating this case carefully. Perhaps they’ll ask to take a cast of Mr. Wynn’s elbow."

Earlier posts on this story here, here, and here.