14 News Special Report: Finding Picasso - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

14 News Special Report: Finding Picasso

The discovery of a rare masterpiece stored away for nearly five decades could forever change the future of the Evansville Museum.

Pablo Picasso's 'Seated Woman with Red Hat' made headlines around the world. but what will the museum do with a potential windfall, some say, could be in the tens of millions of dollars?

New York auction house Guernsey's says it's in negotiations right now to sell 'Seated Woman with Red Hat.'

Thursday night, Guernsey's President Arlan Ettinger says he's standing by his previous statements. estimating the piece's value at $30-40 million.

Hanging on the walls of the Evansville Museum of Arts, History, and Science, works by Renoir, Andy Warhol, Rembrandt, and Pablo Picasso.

In fact, the museum has six Picassos in its collection, but up until this Spring, they thought they only had five.

"We had this piece in our collection for so many years," said Incoming Interim Director of the Evansville Museum Mary Bower. "It had been catalogued, it had just been misunderstood what the piece was.

In all, the museum's collection boasts 30,000 pieces, valued somewhere in the ballpark of $10 million, compared to the $30-40 million some experts believe Picasso's 'Seated Woman with Red Hat' could be worth.

So, board members made the decision to sell the rare and incomparable piece, after learning what it would cost to protect and insure.

"We considered all the alternatives," said Evansville Museum Board President Steven Khron. "We looked at all of our options and we came to the decision, that this was the best thing to do for the institution.

"To really have so much of the museum's resources devoted to only one work of art in the collection, it didn't seem appropriate or responsible," Bower said.

Tuesday, the museum broke ground on the final phase of it's expansion and renovation called Reaching For The Stars.

The $14.1 million project is being funded completely through donations and not at all connected to the discovery, and subsequent sale of the Picasso.

The American Alliance of Museums sets strict guidelines for deaccession, or the sale of a particular work from a museum's collection, saying "in no event shall (the profits) be used for anything other than acquisition or direct care of collections."

"We'll be doing things like conservation of pieces we already have and acquiring new pieces for the museum's collection," said Bower. 

'Seated Woman with Red Hat is in the care of Guernsey's art experts.

President Ettinger says the rarity of the piece makes it difficult to assess, because there is no precedent for a Picasso gemmail.

Hundreds of colored pieces of glass, baked together, that will forever be etched in the Evansville Museum's history.

"It's very unusual," Bower said. "About three inches thick and it's just multiple, multiple layers of glass and it sparkles with the light behind it."

"It's spectacular," said Krohn. "It is really a breathtaking, unusual piece of art that is hard to describe."

Because of it's value, 'Seated Woman' was never shown in Evansville.

Thursday night, no one knows exactly how much the Picasso could actually be sold for, but regardless of the final price, it is certain that the museum and the people of the tri-state will benefit for years to come.

Copyright 2012 WFIE. All rights reserved.

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