Nora Ephron, writer, film-maker and humorist, passed away last week. This deliciously witty excerpt comes from her 2006 Vegas vacation, where she details Steve Wynn’s ill-fated encounter with this Picasso. I’ll bet this happened on a Monday.
The next day, after an excellent lunch at Chinois in the Forum Mall, which is the eighth wonder of the world, we all trooped back to our hotel to see the painting. We went into Wynn’s office, which is just off the casino, past a waiting area with a group of fantastic Warhols, past a secretary’s desk with a Matisse over it (a Matisse over a secretary’s desk!) (and by the way a Renoir over another secretary’s desk!) and into Wynn’s office. There, on the wall, were two large Picassos, one of them Le Reve. Steve Wynn launched into a long story about the painting — he told us that it was a painting of Picasso’s mistress, Marie-Therese Walter, that it was extremely erotic, and that if you looked at it carefully (which I did, for the first time, although I’d seen it before at the Bellagio) you could see that the head of Marie-Therese was divided in two sections and that one of them was a penis. This was not a good moment for me vis a vis the painting. In fact, I would have to say that it made me pretty much think I wouldn’t pay five dollars for it. Wynn went on to tell us about the provenance of the painting – who’d first bought it and who’d then bought it. This brought us to the famous Victor and Sally Ganz, a New York couple who are a sort of ongoing caution to the sorts of people who currently populate the art world, because the Ganzes managed to accumulate a spectacular art collection in a small New York apartment with no money at all. The Ganz collection went up for auction in 1997, Wynn was saying — he was standing in front of the painting at this point, facing us. He raised his hand to show us something about the painting — and at that moment, his elbow crashed backwards right through the canvas.
There was a terrible noise.
Wynn stepped away from the painting, and there, smack in the middle of Marie-Therese Walter’s plump and allegedly-erotic forearm, was a black hole the size of a silver dollar – or, to be more exactly, the size of the tip of Steve Wynn’s elbow — with two three-inch long rips coming off it in either direction. Steve Wynn has retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that damages peripheral vision, but he could see quite clearly what had happened.
“Oh shit,” he said. “Look what I’ve done.”
The rest of us were speechless.
“Thank God it was me,” he said.
Nora Ephron (1941-2012)
It was a $139 million dollar mistake. Read the full story here