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 formally returned a painting by Pablo Picasso. It is valued at $15 million. It had been stolen from a Paris museum more than 10 years ago. The painting was seized by immigration officials late last year in New Jersey.
During a ceremony at the French Embassy, Sarah Saldaña returned the artwork. She is director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The embassy is in Washington. 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 is 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 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 stirred suspicion. That is because it was heading for a climate-controlled storage facility - a peculiar destination for a package carrying French words suggesting it contained 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 black-market smuggling of art and antiquities," he said.
Details of who sent the package and how the painting was stolen were not provided. The investigation continues. Currie said no arrests have been made.
Picasso is considered one of the greatest artists. He painted "La Coiffeuse" in 1911. The brownish Cubist painting is no bigger than a pizza box. It sat on a tan easel wrapped in plastic and sat behind a burgundy rope for the whole event.
In November 2001, officials at the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris discovered the artwork was missing from storage. They had gone to get it in preparation for a show in India.
Officials gave no suggestions when the painting will be returned to the museum. The painting had suffered minor damages and will have to be restored.
"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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