A Pablo Picasso-painted stage curtain that hangs at the Four Seasons restaurant in midtown Manhattan will be donated to the New York Historical Society for display, resolving a dispute between the landmarks group that owns the work and the owner of the building where it’s located.
The New York Landmarks Conservancy in February sued RFR Holding Corp., whose Seagram Building houses the Four Seasons, saying that moving the picture for renovations as planned would severely damage it.
The group’s experts will work with Historical Society conservators to remove the 19-by-20-foot (5.8 meter by 6 meter) painting and move it to the society’s Dexter Hall gallery for display, the parties said in a joint statement today.
“‘Le Tricorne’ has been an icon of New York for more than half a century, embodying both an influential social milieu and an important moment in the city’s cultural development,” society President Louise Mirrer said in a statement. “We are grateful to the Landmarks Conservancy for donating ‘Le Tricorne’ to us, so we can present it as a visible testimony to New York’s past.”
The painting, whose name means “Three-Cornered Hat,” is one of a handful of curtains that Picasso painted for Sergei Diaghilev’s ballet of the same name and is the artist’s largest painting in America, according to the Landmarks Conservancy. The curtain, painted in 1919, was valued at $1.6 million in 2008.
The painting was selected by Phyllis Lambert, daughter of Samuel Bronfman, who formed the conglomerate Seagram Co. (VIV), for the restaurant’s entrance. The modernist 38-story skyscraper, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, opened in 1958 at 375 Park Avenue between East 52nd and 53rd streets.
The work has hung in the restaurant since it opened in July 1959, and the area where it is located has become known as “Picasso Alley.” Vivendi SA, which bought Seagram in 2000, planned to sell the curtain at an auction of works in 2003 to reduce debt and later decided to donate it to the conservancy.
While the interior of the restaurant is a designated landmark, as is the building itself, the artwork wasn’t part of that designation, according to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
RFR, founded by Aby Rosen and partner Michael Fuchs in 1991, purchased the Seagram Building for $375 million in 2000. The company also owns the Lever House at 390 Park Avenue and the Gramercy Park Hotel.
The company had said it needs to remove the work from the lobby to repair damage to the wall behind the curtain caused by moisture coming from the restaurant’s kitchen.
“Vivendi gave us this curtain in 2005 as a gift to the city,” Conservancy President Peg Breen said in the statement. “Indeed, in Dexter Hall, this beloved part of New York’s history will be seen and enjoyed by a far wider audience than it ever has before.”
New York State Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead had scheduled hearings in the case later this month to hear from experts as to the extent of the damage of the wall behind the work and whether or not the painting will be harmed if it’s moved.
The agreement was reported earlier by the New York Times.
The case is In the Matter of the Application of Landmarks Conservancy Inc., 151097/2014, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).
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