60 Minutes probes a Picasso mystery

Voilà! A trove of Picassos worth millions suddenly appears, rocking the art world and the artist’s family

When an elderly couple from a small village in France produced a portfolio of 271 never-before-seen Picasso pieces estimated to be worth as much as $100 million, it was cause for shock and awe in the art world and more than a little consternation from the artist’s heirs.  It was also a perfect story for 60 Minutes, who sent Bill Whitaker to France for a report to be featured on the broadcast’s 49th season premiere Sunday, Sept. 25 at 7:30 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. PT.  

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Pablo Picasso, 1953.

AP

Meet Pierre and Danielle Le Guennec. Pierre was Pablo Picasso’s electrician and handyman in the early 1970s before the master’s death in 1973. He claims that because of his discreet manner, he gained the trust of the artist -- so much so, he was given free access to Picasso’s homes.  Pierre says he was on friendly terms with the artist and his wife, Jacqueline.  Based on that relationship, the Le Guennecs say it was only normal they’d be given a gift of Picasso’s art. That art turned out to be an entire cache -- including some preliminary sketches of famous works, two pads full of drawings and 28 lithographs.

The Le Guennecs say decades passed until Pierre had a health scare and decided to get his affairs in order. That’s when he remembered he had a box of Picasso works squirreled away in his garage and decided to take a look at its contents.  Pierre says he organized the collection of pieces to take them to the Picasso Administration in Paris for authentication -- the only entity in the world allowed to do so. The Picasso Administration is headed by Claude Picasso, Pablo Picasso’s third child and one of five living heirs.

That meeting was the beginning of a battle between the couple from the countryside and the sophisticated heirs to a priceless art collection.  Whitaker probes both sides of this incredible story, the latest twist in the legacy of a man considered by many to be the 20th century’s greatest artist.