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(Credit: Alamy)

Art

Spanish customs seize a smuggled Pablo Picasso drawing worth $500,000

The Spanish authorities seized a Pablo Picasso drawing after it was discovered in a passenger’s suitcase at an Ibiza airport earlier this month. The passenger, who was flying from Zurich, failed to declare the artwork, Spain’s customs office reported on Monday. 

The drawing, Picasso’s Trois Personnages (1966), is worth 450,000 Swiss francs ($464,658). 

Picasso was one of the most prominent modern artists of the 20th century. He was born in Spain but spent most of his adult life in France, where he died in 1973, aged 91. 

The traveller was initially flagged by Swiss customs officials as “suspicious” and was later questioned upon landing by Spanish customs, who searched the luggage. Initially, the passenger denied the need for a customs declaration, alleging that the piece was a copy and providing an invoice of 1,500 Swiss francs ($1,549) paid for the work. At the bottom of his suitcase, however, officials reportedly found another receipt referencing the Picasso drawing from a Zurich-based art gallery for 450,000 Swiss francs.

Since Switzerland is not within the European Union’s non-custom territory, artworks exceeding 150,000 euros must be declared when travelling. As a result of not declaring the drawing with customs, the traveller will face smuggling charges.

After an initial analysis of the artwork, the director of the Museu d’Art Contemporani d’Eivissa reported the drawing as an original Picasso work. The report confirmed that “the work is original and that the price invoiced by the gallery is adjusted to the market price.” Experts on Picasso’s oeuvre are due to carry out more extensive research on the drawing in due course.

Trois Personnages is currently at the disposal of an Ibiza court, which will oversee the investigation.

See Pablo Picasso’s avant-garde sketch, Trois Personages, up close in the below video, taken shortly after its sale in 2019.