Casino Mogul's Picasso Is On The Mend

Picasso's "The Dream" is auctioned on Nov. 10, 1997 at Christie's auction house in New York. Casino mogul Steve Wynn accidentally damaged the painting shortly after he had agreed to sell it for a record $139 million. AP

Casino mogul Steve Wynn lost $139 million, but got to keep one of his favorite paintings when he poked a hole in a Picasso last month.

Now it will cost Wynn $85,000 to repair the damage to the art work, if not his pride.

"Forget the money," he said during a recent telephone interview from the Chinese enclave of Macau. "You hate like hell to damage a painting like 'Le Reve.'"

Wynn was showing Picasso's 1932 work to several high-profile guests in his Las Vegas office when he accidentally poked a hole in the canvas with his elbow.

Wynn called it, "the world's clumsiest and goofiest thing to do," and said he was glad he was responsible and not one of his guests. He said no one but him said a word.

"The blood drained out of their faces," Wynn said, identifying his guests as screenwriter Nora Ephron and husband Nick Pileggi, broadcaster Barbara Walters, New York socialite Louise Grunwald, lawyer David Boies and his wife, Mary, and art dealer Serge Sorokko and his wife, Tatiana.

"They did not know what to say," Wynn recalled. "I just turned around and said, 'Oh, my God. How could I have done this?'

"At least I did it myself."

Wynn said the gaffe made him and his wife, Elaine Wynn, reconsider his deal to sell the painting to art collector Steven Cohen. Just 36 hours before, Wynn had agreed to sell "Le Reve," French for "The Dream," for $139 million.

Wynn's deal with Cohen would have been $4 million higher than the $135 million that cosmetics magnate Ronald Lauder paid in July for Gustav Klimt's 1907 portrait, "Adele Bloch-Bauer I."

The painting depicting Picasso's mistress, Marie-Therese Walter, which Wynn bought for $48.4 million in 1997, was left with what Wynn described as a thumb-sized flap in the canvas.

"Elaine said this is a sign from God that we ought to keep it," Wynn said, "and it is a favorite picture of mine." At one time he had considered naming his $2.7 billion Wynn Las Vegas resort "Le Reve."

Wynn said it could cost $85,000 to repair the damage. He wouldn't name the conservator in New York who was doing the work, but art experts say the painting can be repaired so that the tear won't be visible.

"Now the argument is over diminution of value," Wynn said.

"This is an interesting situation," Jerome Bengis, an art dealer and appraiser, said in an interview from his office in Coral Springs, Fla.

"A restored piece naturally is not worth full value," said Bengis, a member of the International Society of Appraisers. "Usually when you have a unique, very expensive piece like this at this level, you value it for a percentage loss. But I doubt anyone can put a percentage on it as to what the value is."

Wynn said he had filed a loss claim with the insurer of the art work, Lloyd's of London, but declined to provide specifics.

"For insurance purposes, we're keeping our mouths shut," Wynn said.

Lloyd's spokeswoman Jennifer Culley, reached in London, said she could not immediately confirm whether Lloyd's insured the painting.

Wynn said he has declined many requests to talk about the mishap until now.

"Talking about it too much would be bad taste," Wynn said.
  • Joel Roberts

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