Steve Wynn loses big with punctured $219m Picasso
LAS VEGAS: A deal between two art collectors for Picasso's 'Le Rêve' had to be called off because its current owner, casino magnate Steve Wynn accidentally damaged the painting while showing it to friends some days ago. The story surfaced only now because Wynn's friends who were present at the time had promised silence about the embarrassing incident.
Steve Wynn may not be very careful with his money; but he has just proved that he can occasionally write off a multi-million dollar deal to make a killing some other day. About ten days ago, art collector and hedge-fund billionaire Steven Cohen offered to buy the Picasso masterpiece owned by Wynn. After the price $139 million was agreed upon, Wynn invited his friends to come see the painting for the last time in his office at the casino.
When the friends came over, Wynn proudly started describing aspects of the painting and its provenance. 'Le Rêve' is believed to be Picasso's rendition of Marie-Therese Waltaire's (his mistress) profile. At one point, Wynn wanted to point out something about the subject in 'Le Rêve' when his elbow backed into the canvas making a finger-sized hole in it.
Wynn's friends later said that he has an eye condition - retinitis pigmentosa - that affects peripheral vision which may have caused the accident. The sudden move of his elbow made a cracking sound as it cut through the canvas, a friend remembers. Realizing what he had done, Wynn stepped back from the painting and exclaimed “look what I've done”.
The billionaire also said “thank God it was me” that had done it. The damage may have hurt, but Wynn was quick to regain composure. Moments later there was no sign he was smarting from the loss. The same day he informed Cohen that the 'Le Rêve' deal is off because of the damage.
Wife Elaine later told him it was a sign they were meant to keep the painting. So he calls up Cohen to tell him he would be keeping the painting after all. The painting has been handed over to a reputed art restorer in New York who said he would need 6 to 8 weeks for the repair work.
Wynn had bought the painting for $48.4 million at an auction in 1997. If the painting hadn't been damaged and the $139 million deal had gone through, the price would be the highest paid so far for a work of art. The highest price fetched so far was by the 1907 portrait Adele Block-Bauer – sold for $135 million.
Wynn is credited with spearheading the casino industry in the 1990s in Las Vegas.