Pole Through Picasso Punctures Wynn's Comeback as Art Dealer

(Bloomberg) -- Steve Wynn had a lot riding on the three paintings consigned to Christie’s for sale this month, including his plan to start a new career as an art dealer.

Estimated at as much as $135 million, the works were destined to be star lots at the modern and contemporary art sales in New York this week, marketed to his fellow billionaires alongside the collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller.

Then one of them, a self-portrait by Pablo Picasso titled “Le Marin,” was accidentally damaged late last week and withdrawn from the May 15 auction of Impressionist and modern art.

A paint roller attached to an extension pole used by a contractor was leaning against a wall before gravity took over and it fell, puncturing the lower right of the canvas, said Wynn’s attorney, Michael Kosnitzky. It’s unclear whether the painting was hanging on the wall at the time or if the pole struck the front or the back of the canvas, he said.

Christie’s declined to comment on the details of the accident, saying only that it occurred Friday “during the final stages of preparation.”

New Career

Another Picasso, a portrait of a woman with a cat, “Femme au chat assise dans un fauteuil,” was pulled as the two were covered by the same third-party guarantee.

Wynn finally got so sell some art at Christie’s when the third painting, Andy Warhol’s rendering of Elvis Presley, was offered Thursday night in New York. The 1963 work, “Double Elvis [Ferus Type],” fetched $37 million with fees, topping the $30 million estimate.

The Warhol had been backed by a third-party guarantee, ensuring it would sell. At least four bidders chased the painting; the winner was Brett Gorvy, co-founder of the Levy Gorvy gallery and a former Christie’s executive, who said he was bidding on behalf of a client. Christie’s said that the painting was bought by the guarantor and the final price was adjusted to reflect a $1 million fee paid to the backer.

The sales were going to launch Wynn’s career as an art dealer through his new online gallery, Sierra Fine Art LLC, set up after sexual-misconduct allegations that he denies forced him to step down as chairman and chief executive officer of Wynn Resorts Ltd.

“He’s angry about it,” Kosnitzky said of the goring, calling it “gross, flagrant negligence.”

All three paintings are displayed prominently on Sierra Fine Art’s website, along with other works such as Warhol’s “Superman” and a reclining nude by Henri Matisse. The gallery was conceived as an online-only space, said Kosnitzky, a partner in the private client practice at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.

“Mr. Wynn believes that bricks and mortar are not the future of the art dealer industry and are not necessary to effect his business plan.”

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