PARIS — A Paris auctioneer called off the scheduled sale Thursday of a trove of drawings Picasso gave his longtime chauffeur, after a separate cache of previously unknown Picassos turned up in an electrician's garage — a revelation that stunned the art world.
The sale at the Drouot auction house was to have included several dozen sketches and minor Picasso works given to driver Maurice Bresnu, a brawny man nicknamed "Teddy Bear" who was close to the artist and who sometimes inspired his work late in life.
Here's where things take a surprising twist: Since Bresnu and his wife have both died, one of the six heirs who stood to profit from the sale is a relative named Pierre Le Guennec — a former electrician for Picasso who recently announced that he had kept 271 of the master's creations in his garage for decades.
The electrician and his wife said the works were a gift from Picasso's second wife, Jacqueline Roque. But the announcement — by a man not known to be among the artist's friends — infuriated Picasso's heirs, who filed a lawsuit against the French electrician, claiming "illegal possession" of the works. Police have confiscated the art.
While the electrician's account stunned many people, the driver is already well-known to scholars of Picasso, who died in 1973.
Christie's already sold some of Bresnu's Picasso collection in the 1990s. Picasso dedicated drawings to the "Teddy Bear" — "Nounours" in French — sometimes even drawing a little bear on them, said auctioneer Pierre Blanchet. Picasso's daughter Maya authenticated works that were to be sold Thursday, he said.