France Retrieves Stolen Picasso

Washington, D.C. -- A Picasso oil painting valued at $15 million, that was stolen from a Paris museum 14 years ago has been returned to France by US authorities.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media look forward to viewing the Cubist masterpiece in its rightful home.

The painting titled, La Coiffeuse (The Hairdresser) is considered a cubist masterpiece from Picasso’s most important period. Created in 1911 the canvas was found in a shipment from Belgium to Newark, New Jersey, in December 2014.

The customs form described it as ‘handicraft’ with a declared value of $37.

During a ceremony this past week at the French embassy in Washington, Sarah Saldaña, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), officially repatriated the abstract artwork. It was signed over to Frédéric Doré, the Embassy of France’s deputy chief of mission.

“There’s a tremendous feeling of accomplishment when we return a piece of art like this,” said Saldaña.

The painting was on its way from Belgium to the New York borough of Queens when it was identified and seized at Newark International Airport in New Jersey.

Kelly Currie, acting US attorney for the eastern district of New York, said the package aroused suspicion because it was heading for a climate-controlled storage facility -- a peculiar destination for a package marked with French words suggesting it contained a $37 Christmas gift.

"The US is not an easy market for black-market smuggling of art and antiquities,” Currie said. He added that the speed with which government agencies handled the case was unprecedented.

Details surrounding who sent the package and how the painting was stolen were not provided, and the investigation continues. Currie said no arrests have been made.

Picasso painted La Coiffeuse in 1911. The cubist painting, which is no bigger than a pizza box, sat on a tan easel wrapped in plastic and situated behind a burgundy rope for the duration of this week's repatriation event.

In November 2001, officials at the National Museum of Modern Art situated at the Centre Pompidou discovered the artwork was missing from storage when they went to retrieve it in preparation for an exhibition in India.

Officials gave no indication when the painting will be returned to the museum and said it had endured minor damages and would have to be restored.

“The message from ICE today is, ‘This is a part of our mission, a part of the work we do’,” said Saldaña. “You saw some tremendous investigative work in detecting this piece to begin with and we will continue to do so.”

It was handed over to the French embassy in Washington by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

"We're so glad that it's going to be shown to the world again,” stated the agency's director, Sarah Saldana. The painting was last seen on public display in Munich, Germany, in 1988.

The painting was flown to Paris' Centre Georges Pompidou where it will undergo careful restoration. The museum reported it stolen from its archives in 2001. Earlier this year, experts from the museum authenticated the painting as the original Picasso.

Today's homepage Featured Art Video further explores the repatriation of the Picasso "La Coiffeuse".