July 28. 2022
When Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., President of the Philippines, won a landslide victory in May 2022, he went to visit his mother Imelda, former first lady and wife of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. One detail in Imelda’s opulent home stood out in a video showing mother congratulating son. On the wall was hung a distinctive painting of an abstract nude rendered in blues and greens on a red and orange bed: Pablo Picasso’s “Femme Couchée VI”.
The painting was one of more than 200 purchased by Imelda and Marcos senior while the dictator was in power, with funds transferred from the Philippines to Switzerland. He had amassed a fortune of up to $10 billion by the time he was deposed in 1986. In 2014, anti-corruption authorities in the Philippines attempted to seize “Femme Couchée VI” to recover some of the missing billions, but they were unable to do so, and the work was declared “missing.” But since it was discovered in Imelda’s living room, speculation has centered on whether she owns the original or a forgery, or possibly both.
Because Picasso’s paintings of his muses are among his most valuable works, the genuine “Femme Couchée VI” is indeed likely to fetch tens of millions of dollars.
One month after Bongbong Marco’s victory in the Philippines, a second work by the Spanish artist was discovered, this time in France by his granddaughter Diana Widmaier-Ruiz-Picasso. In June 2022, she discovered a collection of origami birds and sketchbooks filled with colorful images of animals, clowns, and acrobats by the artist while searching through family storage.
When she showed the books to her mother, Maya Ruiz-Picasso, Picasso’s eldest daughter, memories flooded back. When his daughter, now 86, was a child, the artist used the sketches to teach her to draw. Her notes and sketches appeared alongside those of her father on some pages. She marked one circus scene with a “10,” indicating her approval.
On July 5, 2022, another work by the master of Cubism unexpectedly surfaced. Authorities at Ibiza airport in Spain searched through the luggage of a passenger arriving from Switzerland and discovered a drawing believed to be Picasso’s “Trois Personnages” hidden in his bags after being tipped off by customs officials.
When the work was discovered, the passenger claimed it was a copy and showed authorities a $1,560 invoice. However, a second invoice from a Zurich art gallery was discovered during a search of his bags. The sketch, which is thought to be authentic, is worth more than $460,000.
Picasso was a prolific artist, estimated to have created around 50,000 artworks during his lifetime, compared to Andy Warhol’s 20,000 and Van Gogh’s 900 paintings. And these are only the genuine versions. Today there are more fake Picassos than genuine Picassos, but there are still many genuine Picassos on the art market. The Spanish master’s works are currently in high demand. Since the pandemic, people have been investing in artwork, and a great master, such as Picasso, is a sound investment. What to make of these unexpectedly appearing in such different circumstances, in such a short space of time, in a market full of Picassos – real and fake – and where those works are more than never in high demand?