80-year-old Parisian Gallerists sentenced to jail after stealing Picasso works

On November 18, two French gallery owners were found guilty of buying and concealing art stolen from Catherine Hutin, daughter of Picasso’s second wife, Jacqueline Roque, and Sylvie Baltazart-Eon, daughter of Picasso’s gallerist Aimé Maeght.

More than 550 of Picasso’s drawings and prints were stolen by owners of Paris Gallery Belle et Belle – 80-year-old Anne Pfeffer and her husband, Herbert. They have been given suspended jail sentences of two years and one year, respectively and were charged with €400,000 in fines and indemnities. Belle et Belle gallery has now been dissolved, and the couple has been banned from art dealing for five years. 

Both Anne and Herbert Pfeffer denied the allegations, but last month the court found they were “well aware” that the works they sold or concealed had been stolen from the two women.

The verdict brought closure to a decade-long investigation when it was revealed that a handyman employed by both Hutin and Baltazart-Eon, Freddy Munchenbach, had used keys to their respective homes to snatch the works on multiple occasions between 2006 and 2008. The stolen works worth a total of more than $13.8 million were stolen from the women who lived next door to each other near the Parc Montsouris in Paris. Munchenbach confessed to stealing the works to pay off his gambling debts. He also admitted to selling the works to an Italian junk dealer Antonio Celano for about $150,000. When arrested, Celano told the police he sold the works to the Belle et Belle Gallery owned by the Pfeffers. 

One of Picasso’s stolen works Study for Lysistrata (1933) recovered from the possession of Anne and Herbert Pfeffer © Succession Picasso

During the trial that took place from 5-7 October, evidence showed dysfunctional management of the Pfeffer’s gallery: sales of unsigned Picasso drawings, no transaction records, illicit cash payments and the use of an offshore company linked to an anonymous bank account in Switzerland, raising questions about whether the Pfeffer’s were involved in money laundering. 

Out of the 553 stolen works, 56 were recovered from the couples’ gallery, their apartments and cellars, the cellar of their daughter, Géraldine Pfeffer-Lévy, and from various collectors who had acquired them from Belle et Belle. Two sheets of Picasso’s drawings had been cut into pieces for sale and were considered damaged beyond repair. There are almost 500 drawings and prints that are still yet to be found.

Red Eight Gallery is proud to be representing Youssef Boubekeur, a dynamic young Parisian artist who, as a child, enjoyed mimicking the great works of Picasso. Using a simple ballpoint pen, Youssef uses a precise yet spontaneous technique in the creation process. His drawings regularly feature animal heads imposed on suit-wearing human bodies, which he says invites the audience to look deeper at human nature and contemplate the “disturbing points of contact between man and animal.”

Please get in touch if you’d like to know more about Youseff’s work.