Picasso sketch seized at Ibiza airport is authentic, say Spanish experts

A passenger from Zurich is accused of smuggling one of the maestro’s valuable drawings into Ibiza inside his hand luggage

The Picasso sketch seized at Ibiza airport, in an image provided by the Spanish tax agency.
The Picasso sketch seized at Ibiza airport, in an image provided by the Spanish tax agency.

Spanish cultural authorities have issued a preliminary report confirming the authenticity of a sketch attributed to Pablo Picasso that was confiscated at Ibiza airport on July 5 from a passenger on a flight from Zurich, Switzerland. The expert opinion, issued at the request of the Spanish Culture Ministry, still needs to be backed by further reports using advanced art authentication techniques.

What is thought to be an original sketch by Pablo Picasso was taken on board a flight from Zurich to Ibiza as hand luggage, packed into a cardboard cylinder. Nothing was declared. The passenger has been accused of smuggling the item, entitled Trois personnages, in a bid to avoid customs duties and import VAT, not to mention the additional administrative obligations the merchandise is subject to, according to the Ministry of Finance.

On July 5, the Swiss authorities alerted Spanish customs that a traveler flying to Ibiza from Zurich was carrying a work of art they considered suspiciously valuable, despite the traveler’s insistence that it was not an original.

After landing on the island, the passenger denied he had anything to declare when passing through customs for non-EU travelers, leading to his luggage being checked and the discovery of the drawing, bearing Pablo Picasso’s signature. The passenger again insisted it was a copy, and even produced a handwritten invoice to confirm his purchase of the sketch for a sum of 1,500 Swiss francs or €1,514.

Picasso's signature on the seized drawing.
Picasso's signature on the seized drawing.

Searching further, Spanish customs officers then found another invoice from an art gallery in Zurich for 450,000 Swiss francs or approximately €450,000. Item and description: Trois Personnages. The officers then confiscated the sketch as an object brought into Spain from outside the EU with a suspected value exceeding the legal €150,000.

Customs then began negotiations with the General Directorate of The Culture Ministry’s department of Cultural Heritage and Fine Arts who contacted an expert in contemporary art from the Eivissa Contemporary Art Museum on the island of Ibiza. The latter reported that the work was an original Picasso with a market value corresponding to the approximately €450,000 on the invoice.

The definitive accreditation of the work will be made soon using advanced art analysis techniques. Meanwhile, the 1966 work of art is being held by the courts.

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