Restaurant Picasso: Legal Battle Continues in NYC

Pam WrightLife

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A 19-foot-high, painted theater curtain — attributed to Pablo Picasso — is at the center of a legal dispute over whether the piece hanging in New York City's Four Seasons Restaurant is too fragile to be removed for repairs.

Experts are concerned the unframed “Le Tricorne” painting, which depicts figures overlooking a bullring, will crumble if taken down to allow repairs.

The dispute is between the restaurant's landlord and the actual owner of the painting, and went before a state court judge on Wednesday.

Real estate developer and owner of the building, Aby Rosen, wants the Picasso taken down from a hallway between two dining rooms. The piece was painted in 1919 and has been in its current location since the restaurant's opening in 1959.

Rosen's lawyer, Andrew Kratenstein, argued the limestone wall on which the painting hangs has been damaged by moisture and steam from the kitchens on the other side.

Kratenstein told the court an art handler hired by Rosen "was concerned it was more dangerous to leave (the painting) in place."

However, The New York Landmarks Conservancy, a non-profit preservationist group that was given ownership of the Picasso in 2005, says that the wall is fine and removing the curtain could ruin it and harm the restaurant's interior.

Both sides have hired engineers and experts to view the wall, but only those sent by Rosen find the painting may be at risk if removed. However, an another art mover hired by Rosen said the curtain could "crack like a potato chip."

Peg Breen, the conservancy's president, said in an interview that the painting was the "iconic center" of the Four Seasons.

"It's considered one of the loveliest interior landmarks in America and it's all worked together; it's all of a piece," she said.

"Philip Johnson didn't just say, 'We'll slap up a Picasso for a little while and we'll see what else comes along,'" she said, referring to the building's architect.

Judge Carol Edmead said she wants to hear expert testimony on whether it is necessary to move the curtain April 30 before making a ruling.

"The best part is all of a sudden everyone's paying attention to it," said Four Seasons co-owner Julian Niccolini.

Image via YouTube

Pam Wright