Picasso sketch stolen from Geary Street gallery in daytime heist 

An original Picasso artwork worth hundreds of thousands of dollars was taken from a San Francisco art gallery Tuesday morning in a brazen daylight heist, according to police and the gallery.

A man walked into the Weinstein Gallery in the 300 block of Geary Street about 11:40 a.m., plucked the drawing off the wall and left in a taxicab, police said.

Gallery owner Rowland Weinstein said the 1962 piece “Tête de femme” was estimated to be worth about $200,000. Weinstein acquired it in May at an auction in New York for approximately $125,000, he said.

“Any one-of-a-kind work of art is going to be irreplaceable,” Weinstein said. “It was an extraordinary original drawing by Pablo Picasso.”

The gallery, located near Union Square, also features works by Calder, Chagall, Dali and Matisse, along with contemporary artists.

The framed piece, which had been perched on a pillar near the front of the gallery, was double hooked to the wall to try to prevent such a theft, Weinstein said.

“Somehow there must have been some breach of that, and I can’t tell you why that happened,” he said.

Weinstein said he was shocked by the loss, having never had a major piece stolen in his 20 years in San Francisco.

“Most galleries that show this caliber of artwork don’t put it on street level,” he said. “It’s very upsetting, because my goal is to keep this kind of work accessible to the public, and there’s always a risk to that.”

The gallery is now reviewing its security procedures, Weinstein said, “so that we don’t have to change that. It would break my heart.”

Witnesses described the suspect as a white man about 6 feet tall between 32 and 35 years old, a police spokesman said. He was wearing a dark jacket, light shirt, dark pants, loafers with no socks and large sunglasses.

The gallery has already contacted local galleries in San Francisco, along with a lost-art registry, in hopes that the piece will be recovered, Weinstein said.

“It is exceedingly difficult to resell a known piece by a 20th-century master like Picasso,” he said.

While the artwork is insured, “I’d prefer to have the drawing back,” Weinstein said.

The stolen piece is part of Picasso’s Bresnu Collection. Maurice Bresnu was Picasso’s chauffeur. Picasso used to give sketch drawings as gifts to Bresnu and his housekeeper.

Anyone with information about the theft is asked to contact police at (415) 575-4444, text a tip to TIP411 or call 911.

aburack@sfexaminer.com

Bay City News contributed to this report.


Tête de femme

  • Dated, inscribed and numbered ‘25.9.65. Nimes VIII’ (upper left)
  • Pencil on paper
  • 10½ by 8¼ inches
  • Drawn in Nîmes, Sept. 25, 1965

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