The British Broadcasting Corporation, in a 2014 reportage, said that a group of artworks were seized from Imelda Marcos by order of the court. Among these was a painting that art experts and connoisseurs worldwide recognize as Pablo Picasso’s Femme Couchée VI (Reclining Woman). Sleuths of haute art – and there are many all over the world — refer to it as the Missing Picasso.
But when her only son recently paid Imelda a visit at her Pacific Plaza condominium unit on Ayala Avenue last week, the Picasso was there. Is this the Missing Picasso?
After the artworks were seized from Malacanang Palace in 2014, these were delivered and placed in the custody of the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP). According to NMP Director General Jeremy Barns, the Picasso in the museum was labeled as “Picasso Replica Bass Strokes” in the acknowledgment receipt.
So is this one a real Picasso –or is the one visibly flaunted by Imelda in her Makati living room?
Court records reveal the hide- and-seek that took place involving the art pieces that are in the possession of the Marcos family that are believed to be of high value and properly belong to the Filipino people.
When known Marcos houses and offices were raided on orders of the court sheriffs, only the search conducted in the Marcos home in San Juan was a success. Former chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) Andy Bautista said the raiding teams were either made to wait or were turned down outright. At the Pacific Plaza, the master’s bedroom was locked and off limits to the court authorities. On the wall where paintings had been earlier photographed, only portraits of the dictator remained.
This was the same wall displaying the Picasso painting that Imelda pointed at in the interview she gave to Lauren Greenfield, director of the hit documentary “The Kingmaker.” Also seen there were a Michelangelo and a Gauguin.
In Batac, Ilocos Norte, court operatives found only empty frames.
The world’s media continue to weigh in on the Missing Picasso. Outside the Philippines after the recent elections, adverse opinions on the Marcoses is decidedly at cross purposes with the nice-sounding narratives that resulted in the victory of the dictator’s son and namesake.
The Guardian writes: “Ruben Carranza, a former commissioner for the presidential commission on good government which was set up to investigate and recover ill-gotten wealth, said it was unclear if the painting was a genuine Picasso.”
“Mrs. Marcos has had a habit of buying fake paintings, as well as lending fake paintings for display,” Carranza was quoted as saying. ‘The fact that she’s now displaying it just shows not just the duplicity of Mrs. Marcos – but that she has to display the duplicity and the extravagance that she thinks she’s displaying for Filipinos to see … That says something even worse.”
He added in the article, “It shows this really, absolutely uncaring attitude for Filipinos. They’ve not only now been led to believe that [the Marcoses] have gold. Now, they’re leading them to believe, again, that they have so much wealth that they can just display it whenever they please.”
For his part, Bautista said that what the government seized was a tarpaulin Picasso.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has won the last presidential elections. Why do we continue to write about the Marcos kleptocracy?
We do so simply because it is part of truth-seeking, election season or not. The artworks were ordered seized by the Sandiganbayan for Civil Case 0141 because these were acquired using stolen wealth, the graft court had said. The alt world, created on behalf of the Marcoses to revise history, denies this. We need to know what is true and real.
Locked rooms, empty frames – we will see more of these in the next six years.
The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.