The French judge who interviewed Yves Bouvier today has got to unravel a complicated claim. Catherine Hutin-Blay, who is the daughter of Picasso’s second wife, Jacqueline Roque, claims she had works of art in storage that were surreptitiously removed and sold to via Yves Bouvier to Dimitri Rybolovlev. Bouvier is answering questions from the judge today. Here’s the press release he has made available explaining his actions.
Bouvier makes mention of checking the Art Loss Register for these works before buying them. However, if the works were removed without Ms. Hutin-Blay’s knowledge there would have been no police report to file with ALR. And, of course, the real question remains not whether Bouvier did due diligence. The question is how Bouvier came to be in possession of the works. Bouvier answers this under the section “The Origin.”
This morning, having heard that, in the context of the complaint against unknown made by Catherine Hutin-Blay, Judge Isabelle Rich-Flament had issued an arrest warrant against him, Yves Bouvier presented himself spontaneously to his office to explain himself. Although he considers as unjustified the decision to subject him to an investigation for concealment, he reiterates his full confidence in the justice system and is convinced that the investigation will remove all suspicions against him. Having now access to the file, he intends to use his new status in the procedure to quickly restore all the facts and his innocence.
Today’s hearing has let Yves Bouvier throw light on to the origin of two gouache portraits and fifty eight ink drawings by Picasso, that he bought in 2010 from a trust presented as being that of Catherine Hutin-Blay, and then resold to Dmitry Rybolovlev in 2010 (the inks) and in 2013 (the gouaches) as part of a business relationship which, over about twelve years between 2003 and 2014, permitted the Russian to purchase one of the most beautiful art collections of the world. The facts presented to the judge this morning are summarized below.
The two portraits
In March 2013, Yves Bouvier sold two gouaches of Picasso entitled Tête de femme (Woman’s head) and Espagnole à l’éventail (Spanish with a fan) to Dmitry Rybolovlev. Before selling them, Yves Bouvier submitted these portraits to the usual process of due diligence – in the same manner as all the other artworks sold to Dmitry Rybolovlev. Their authenticity has been certified by their appearance in the Zervos catalog (no 310 and no 442), of the expert who edited the catalogue raisonné, in 33 volumes about Picasso’s work. A report of state has been made by a specialist, attesting that those are originals in excellent state and not copies. Some professional photographs have been made of the pieces before and after their mounting and framing. The transfer of ownership has been realised in accordance with the procedure and the title of ownership has been given to the buyer (certificate of deposit in his name). The pieces have been officially insured. Finally, after checking in the Art Loss Register, both certificates attesting that the pieces have not been stolen were enclosed to the file.
It is necessary to state that these paintings have not been secretly sold on the quiet so that Dmitry Rybolovlev can hide them forever in a safe; on the contrary, they have been sold by invoice by the company of Yves Bouvier MEI Invest to decorate the walls of the chalet of Dmitry Rybolovlev in Gstaad, in view of all his visitors. It is also necessary to state that these paintings, like all the others, which are part of Dmitry Rybolovlev’s wonderful collection, were destined to be publicly exposed and to appear in a book entirely dedicated to his collection, written by an eminent art historian.
Finally, it is necessary to stress that, when Dmitry Rybolovlev encountered financial difficulties to pay the Rothko No 6 Violet, Green and Red, both men considered reselling the gouaches to generate cash. In this context, Yves Bouvier showed them to a big auction house, in view of a possible public sale. Who would be crazy enough to put some paintings in for sale if he knows they are stolen?
The 58 drawings
In December 2010, Yves Bouvier sold a workbook with 58 ink drawings of Picasso (on paper) to Dmitry Rybolovlev. Each of them has been individually submitted to the same due diligence procedure as mentioned above. In the first instance, Dmitry Rybolovlev and Yves Bouvier have together created a company for the buying of these artworks, in order to resell the drawings one by one. Finally, this project was given up, because Dmitry Rybolovlev preferred to keep the pieces of art and expose them in his chalet in Gstaad.
The two gouaches and the 58 ink drawings have been bought in 2010 through an art dealer acting in the name and for the account of the trust presented as being that of Catherine Hutin-Blay. The name of this art dealer, who Yves Bouvier knew very well and with whom he had been working since 2002, has been transmitted to the judge Rich-Flament, but won’t be publicly released by Yves Bouvier. Upon indication of the lawyers of the trust presented as being that of Catherine Hutin-Blay, the sum of the transaction was deposited into the bank account of this trust, which is based in Lichtenstein. The name of this trust has been communicated to the judge Rich-Flament, but won’t be publicly released by Yves Bouvier. In 2010, soon after the transaction, Yves Bouvier took possession of the 58 drawings and of the 2 portraits and he deposited them in the warehouses of Natural Le Coultre in Ports Francs in Geneva. Today Yves Bouvier handed over to the judge Rich-Flament all the bank documents and others attesting all the funds transfer and other details done as part of this transaction.
In Geneva, both gouaches have been marouflaged and framed in February 2013. The marouflage is a proven method aiming to consolidate, preserve and enhance a piece of art realised on paper (and so fragile), usually at the point of the framing. It is not aimed in any case to be misleading for the buyer or a dissimulation.
The good faith of Yves Bouvier
In a nutshell, in 2010, Yves Bouvier bought artworks of which he knew the origin and which fulfilled the rigorous criteria of the due diligence to which he submitted all the artworks sold to Dmitry Rybolovlev between 2003 and 2014. In 2010 (the inks) and in 2013 (the gouaches), Yves Bouvier sold these artworks in good faith to Dmitry Rybolovlev in an irreproachable manner in the terms of the due diligence. Yves Bouvier is fully persuaded that Catherine Hutin-Blay allowed the sale of these pieces and that the sum of the sale has been collected. If evidence that Yves Bouvier does not know today were to appear that prove that he has been misled, he would undertake his responsibilities arising from the due diligence with Dmitry Rybolovlev and he would immediately sue the persons who would have breached his trust in this
The pieces of information appearing in this press release are subject to business confidentiality and should have never been released. Yves Bouvier resolved himself to make them public, in order to reduce the suspicions that he is subject to and to fight the speculation which have been appearing in the media for several months.