The Miami Herald adds a few interesting layers to the story of Billie Tisch’s lost Picasso. The Herald tells us dealer Kenneth Hendel paid $350,000 for it then turned around and offered the work for three times what he paid. Presumably, Hendel’s pricing (the work failed to sell at Sotheby’s for much less) put buyer’s off more than a lack of documentation.
Once confronted with Tisch’s claim, Hendel’s strategy for fighting it is tough to figure out. It’s true that Hendel has gotten the press to lap up his initial spin on the matter: rich old lady irresponsibly loses track of her own art. But trying to embarrass an aged heiress doesn’t seem like a winning hand. Nor does this latest tack Hendel offers the Herald:
Hendel claims there’s a big difference between how stolen art is legally dealt with in New York and Florida. In New York, he claimed, if an art piece is stolen and then passed from dealer to dealer, it must be returned to the original owner.
Not so in Florida, said Hendel. Here, he said, the piece belongs to the last person who purchased it if it has passed through at least two people since the theft.
Jason Hernandez, a legal art expert and partner at Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson, said he could not comment on Hendel’s argument. But he said the general rule in the U.S. is that stolen property must be returned to its rightful owner.
“A thief cannot pass good title. If in fact it was stolen, it’s returned to the owner,” said Hernandez.