An officer stands guard next to Pablo Picasso's painting entitled "La Coiffeuse," Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, at the French Embassy, in Washington. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement returned the painting, valued at $15 million, stolen in 1998 and was seized in December 2014. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
U.S. returns stolen Picasso to Paris
August 20, 2015
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The U.S. government has returned a painting by Pablo Picasso. It is valued at $15 million. It had been stolen from a Paris museum. That was more than 10 years ago. The painting was seized by immigration officials late last year. They located it in New Jersey.
A ceremony was held at the French Embassy. The embassy is in Washington, DC. Sarah Saldaña returned the artwork at the ceremony. She is the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The painting is titled "La Coiffeuse" or "The Hairdresser." It was signed over to Frédéric Doré. He is the Embassy of France's deputy chief of mission.
"There's a tremendous feeling of accomplishment when we return a piece of art like this," Saldaña said.
The painting was on its way from Belgium to the New York borough of Queens. That is when it was identified and seized in Newark, New Jersey.
Kelly Currie is the acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. She said the package was suspicious. That is because it was heading for a climate-controlled storage facility. It was a strange destination for a package carrying French words saying it held a $37 Christmas gift.
Currie said the speed with which government agencies handled the case was "unprecedented."
"The United States is not an easy market for smuggling of art and antiquities," he said.
Details of who sent the package were not given. How the painting was stolen also was not told. The investigation continues. Currie said no arrests have been made.
Picasso is considered one of the greatest artists. He painted "La Coiffeuse" in 1911. It is a brownish Cubist painting. It is no bigger than a pizza box. It was on a tan easel wrapped in plastic and sat behind a burgundy rope for the whole event.
Officials at the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris found out the artwork was missing from storage. That was In November 2001. They had gone to get it for a show in India.
Officials gave no hint when the painting will be returned to the museum. The painting has some minor damage. It will have to be fixed.
"The message from ICE today is, 'This is a part of our mission, a part of the work we do,'" Saldaña said. "You saw some tremendous investigative work in detecting this piece to begin with. And we will continue to do so."
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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Which clue tipped off officials?
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