Pablo Picasso Head of a Young Woman, 1906 was seized from Spanish banker’s Jaime Botín yacht off the island of Corsica this past week. The Spanish culture ministry had been blocking Botín’s efforts to export the work since 2012, on the grounds that there was “no similar work on Spanish territory” from that period of the artist’s life. National heritage expert José Castillo says about Spanish law that “if the artwork is more than 100 years old and has national cultural significance, the owner needs to apply for permission to take it abroad or sell it.”
Botín contests the validity of Spain’s claims with his lawyers arguing: As Picasso painted the work when he was abroad and Botín bought the work in London in 1977 with it never residing in Spain as the ship bears a British flag, the work is on foreign territory subject to British regulations despite being currently docked in Spain therefore Spain has no claim. However Botín sought a Spanish export permit for the work, making those claims groundless. In May, the Spanish courts sided with the ministry, issuing an export ban on the portrait due to its “cultural interest.”
The seizure occurred as Botín attempted to smuggle the portrait to Switzerland on the yacht. The work, worth $28.7 million, will currently be housed in a warehouse at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid until it’s legality its straightened out. The incident has raised questions amongst yacht gallery owners – what could happen to their own art? The most important safeguard, Helen Robertson a former yacht crew member says, is to make sure that all the proper documentation is on hand and easily accessible by crew members who may be the first point of contact for any customs agents.
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