In 2006, a famous painting from Steve Wynn’s magnificent collection, Pablo Picasso’s “Le Rêve,” became even more famous — when Wynn accidentally put his elbow through the canvas, scuttling a pending sale of the masterpiece for $139 million to Connecticut hedge fund billionaire Steven Cohen.
When I interviewed Wynn last year in Las Vegas, the painting — immaculately repaired so no damage is visible — hung above the breakfast table in the villa he shares with his wife at the Wynn-Encore resort, where the signature theater performance is called Le Rêve. Translated, it means The Dream.
The painting, done in 1932, is a huge, stunning oil portrait of one of the artist’s mistresses. And you will never look at it the same way once somebody points out that Picasso painted a particular part of his anatomy as part of the model’s face.
Steve Wynn is so closely linked with Le Rêve that it was hard to believe when the New York Post in March broke the story that Wynn had finally sold the painting to Cohen, for $155 million. The sale was completed in late 2012 and kept quiet for months.
When I caught up to Wynn last week in Everett, where he pitched his proposed Mystic River gambling resort, the Las Vegas developer said selling Le Rêve allowed him to pick up several valuable canvasses, in a swap arranged through a high-end art dealer.
“One of them in particular I like as much as I did Le Rêve,” said Wynn. That would be another Picasso, “Le marin,” he said, which was part of the famous Ganz collection that had included Le Rêve. The Ganz collection was auctioned in 1997; Le Rêve sold for $48 million at the time.
“The night that Le Rêve was sold in ‘97, I wanted to bid on this picture [Le marin] but I didn’t have enough money to do Le Rêve and it,” said Wynn. “The same guy bought both. And then when he ran into financial difficulty, I bought Le Rêve from him. And [Netscape founder] Jim Clark bought the other one. And then when Jim Clark was willing to sell Le marin, which is a portrait of Picasso, same size as Le Rêve, I said oooh.
“So I picked up two great canvasses and a later Picasso, and finally an Andy Warhol,” said Wynn. “I got all those because I was willing to part with Le Rêve. That was fine with me.”
“I love Pablo Picasso’s work. I think at this point — and I’ve only been doing this since 1994 — I have a pretty good sense of Picasso, the market, the artist and his life’s work. I know pretty much all there is to know about each period of his life, and who owns each picture that’s really important. So when I get a chance to pick up one, I get excited.”
Too bad losing money in a Wynn casino can’t be written off as a contribution to the arts.