Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010

An Expensive Elbow

In the fall of 2006, casino mogul Steve Wynn agreed to sell a prized painting, Picasso's 1932 masterpiece "Le Rêve," to hedge-fund honcho and fellow art enthusiast Steve Cohen. The price was a staggering $139 million — the highest in history for a piece of art. But just two days after the agreement was reached, Wynn, who suffers from an eye disorder that affects his peripheral vision, was entertaining friends at his eponymous Las Vegas casino when he accidentally thrust his right elbow through the canvas, leaving a silver-dollar-size hole in the piece, which depicts Picasso's mistress Marie-Theresa Walter. By all accounts, Wynn handled the catastrophe — which he and Cohen agreed invalidated the sale — with grace and good humor. But the aftermath hasn't been so seamless. The restored artwork was appraised at $85 million; Wynn and his insurers wound up settling out of court on a claim to recoup the difference.