Spanish customs officials seized a Pablo Picasso sketch worth over €450,000 from a passenger who arrived at Ibiza airport without declaring the artwork, the country’s customs office, Agencia Tributaria (or Hacienda) said in a statement released on Monday.
Agents had found the 1966 sketch, dubbed ‘Trois personnages’, on 5 July in the suitcase of a man who arrived on the island on a flight from the Swiss city of Zurich, the statement said.
The passenger said the artwork was a copy and presented the agents with a handwritten receipt of 1,500 Swiss francs (€1,513) which is what he said he had paid for the sketch.
But customs agents found another receipt in the bottom of his suitcase from a Zurich art gallery for 450,000 Swiss francs (€454,000) with a reference to a work by Pablo Picasso called ‘Trois personnages’.
Switzerland is not a part of the EU’s non-customs territory and so works of art with a value higher than the legal limit of €150,000 must be declared. The passenger is thus facing charges of smuggling.
The director of the Contemporary Museum of Art of Ibiza supported the customs officials with their investigation into the origin of the sketch, confirming that, based on preliminary analysis, the work is original and the receipt from the Swiss gallery matches the expected market price.
The customs office said they had singled him out for questioning after receiving a tip from their Swiss counterparts that he was transporting a piece of art in ‘suspicious’ conditions.
Picasso is considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. He was born in Spain but spent much of his life in France where he died at the age of 91 in 1973.
🖼️✈️La @guardiacivil y Aduanas de la Agencia Tributaria han intervenido por contrabando en el aeropuerto de Ibiza el dibujo ‘Trois personnages’ (1966) atribuido a Picasso.— Ministerio de Hacienda y Función Pública (@Haciendagob) July 18, 2022
La obra se encontraba en el equipaje de un viajero procedente de Suiza.https://t.co/AKqI1UMHpn pic.twitter.com/kE60UzTg3U