Femme Assise dans un Fauteuil (Woman Sitting in a Chair), a jaggedy portrait in the typical Picasso style, will hit the auction block tonight at Sotheby’s. And in the scrutiny of what’s expected to be the second-most-expensive piece of art sold in the next two weeks (asking price: $20 to $30 million, in case you’re in the market), we learn how much a two-inch tear in a Picasso can cost.
Here’s the story: a lawsuit dug up on the painting reveals that in 2009, financer Teddy Forstmann’s insurance company sued an art gallery housing the portrait for a rip below the figure’s neck due to “careless, negligent, reckless, and otherwise improper handling of the work,” according to Vanity Fair’s Alexandra Peers. That supposedly reduced the value of the painting by $7.5 million, the amount the insurance company paid out to Forstmann, according to the claim. Sotheby’s only slyly mentioned the repair, without fully disclosing the damage: “There is a two-inch repair below the figure’s neck where the canvas has been stitched. … Under UV light, one hairline retouching to address repair, otherwise fine.”