(CN) - The owner of a 19-foot Picasso in the Four Seasons on Park Avenue wants to thwart plans to remove the tapestry Sunday morning, blaming a real estate executive who allegedly called "Le Tricorne" a "rag" in Yiddish.
Pablo Picasso's "Le Tricorne" - translated as "the three-cornered hat" - has hung in the hallway of the Four Seasons for more than 50 years. Late last year, the owners of the Seagram building, where the restaurant is located, said structural issues in the hallway required them to remove the famous tapestry, valued in 2008 at $1.6 million.
The painting's owner, New York Landmarks Conservancy Inc., sued 375 Park Avenue Fee, RFR Holding Corp., Classic Restaurant Corp. and the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York County Supreme Court on Thursday, seeking an order to stop that from happening.
The conservancy says the building owners falsely claimed that the ceiling in the hallway known as "Picasso Alley" was leaking steam that would ruin the curtain.
But an engineer sent by the conservancy "found no evidence of a steam leak," the lawsuit states.
RFR had also claimed that the wall behind the painting was structurally unsound and required emergency repairs, according to the lawsuit. But again, the conservancy says another engineering firm found little to no movement in the panels.
While repairs could be performed without damaging the art, according to the conservancy, removing the painting would almost certainly damage it. One of its conservators inspected the tapestry and determined that moving it posed a "significant risk of stress and damage to the paint layer," and "may cause the fabric support to crack or break," the lawsuit states.
The building owners' stated reason for removing the painting -- for emergency repair work -- "is false and fully refuted" by the opinions of experts and engineers, the conservancy claims.
It blames the decision on non-party Aby Rosen, RFR's CEO and chairman of the New York State Council on the Arts.
"Mr. Rosen has previously referred to the Picasso Curtain as a schmatte, the Yiddish word for rag," the conservancy claims. "The sole basis for RFR and Mr. Rosen's insistence that the Picasso Curtain be removed is Mr. Rosen's own admitted dislike of the Picasso Curtain."
Rosen "fully intends to go ahead as planned with the removal," according to the lawsuit, and has hired a moving company to take down the curtain at 3 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 9. The conservancy estimates that proper removal would take seven to 10 days.
Rosen allegedly intends to replace "Le Tricorne" with other unspecified artwork.
Picasso painted "Le Tricorne" in 1919 for a production of the Ballets Russes. It was bequeathed to the conservancy in 2005 with the stipulation that it "remain in place as long as the Four Seasons Restaurant remains a landmark," according to the lawsuit.
The interior of the Seagram building, including the restaurant, was designated a landmark in 1989, but that designation does not extend to the Picasso, according to a statement by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The conservancy seeks an injunction barring the Feb. 9 removal, and a permanent injunction allowing the painting to stay at the Four Seasons.
It is represented by Michael De Chiara of Zetlin & De Chiara.
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