Friday, February 23, 2007

Elbow room

That everyone is only a few of handshakes away from everyone else came to mind when looking through a catalogue of the Victor and Sally Ganz collection. Two New Zealand collectors lived above the Ganzes in New York for a time (there’s your handshake) and became familiar with some of their incredible collection. Le RĂªve, the Picasso 1932 portrait of his mistress Marie-Therese Walter pictured to the left, was purchased by the Ganzes in 1941, the year the couple married. They paid $7000 ($US of course) for it and hung in their dining room. After their deaths, the painting was sold by their children at Christie's, New York in 1997 for $48.4 million to Casino King, Steve Wynn. When he accidentally put his elbow through the painting late last year it made headlines around the world (and no that’s not an elbow looming over Marie-Therese’s head).

If you haven’t read the Wynn story, there is a hilarious version of it in The New Yorker, or this eye witness account by Nora Ephron in the Huffington Post. In a behind-the-bikesheds type gesture Wynn had agreed to sell the painting to Steven Cohen for $139. This would have been $4 million more than the world record paid for a painting at auction, the $135 million cosmetics magnate Ronald Lauder (an overthenet handshake) paid for Klimt's portrait Adele Bloch-Bauer I. After the elbowing the sale fell through.

“So what would a 5-centimetre elbow-sized hole like that be worth?” we hear you ask. As you can see from Mr Wynn’s insurance claim posted on thesmokinggun, around $59 million dollars. Had enough?