It is often said that the real value of art is in the eye of the beholder. However, trying to pass a Pablo Picasso oil painting off as a mere handicraft holiday gift worth 30 euros ($37) would be a bit of a stretch by most reasonable estimates.
But that is exactly what happened when US customs authorities intercepted a package labeled "art craft" containing Pablo Picasso's 1911 painting "La Coiffeuse" (The Hairdresser) in New York in December - estimated to be valued in the millions of euros - where it was being trafficked on the black market.
The 33-by-46 centimeter (13-by-18-inch) oil-on-canvas was reported stolen from the storerooms of the Pompidou Centre in Paris in November 2001, after last being exhibited in Munich's Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung. Its whereabouts until now had remained completely unknown.
"A lost treasure has been found," said Loretta Lynch, attorney for the eastern district of New York, who filed a civil forfeiture complaint on Thursday (26.02.2015). It is still unclear whether any arrests relating to the smuggling case have been made.
Currently in the possession of Homeland Security Investigations, the artwork will be returned to France and the Musée National d'Art Moderne collection in Paris.