Million-dollar Picasso sold at charity raffle for 100 euros

Reuters

By Johnny Cotton

PARIS (Reuters) - A million-dollar drawing by Pablo Picasso was snapped up on Wednesday by a 25 year-old American art lover at a online charity raffle for a mere 100 euros ($140).

Jeffrey Gonano said he had been looking for a picture to hang on his living room wall when he read a news article about "L'Homme au Gibus" ("Man with Opera Hat"), raffled by Sotheby's in Paris.

"I was looking for art and I thought I might as well," the project manager at a fire sprinkler firm told Reuters by telephone.

Despite the enormous value of his new acquisition, Gonano vowed not to sell the artwork, at least for the time being.

His winning ticket 747815 - picked by a computer system on Wednesday - was one of 50,000 put up for sale online at 100 euros each to raise funds for an association working to preserve the ancient city of Tyre, in modern day Lebanon.

Organisers said that buyers from France and Germany to Iran and Kyrgyzstan had taken part, with a particularly large number of Americans.

The small drawing dates from 1914, during the artist's Cubist phase, and was purchased by the Association to Save Tyre from a New York gallery with the help of a large bank loan. Organizers say they paid slightly less for the work than the one million dollar estimate given by Sotheby's experts.

The sale was given the green light by Picasso's grandson Olivier Picasso who said his grandfather would have been thrilled that his work was being put to good use.

"My grandfather was a pioneer in everything, in his love life, in his artwork, so tonight I'm sure he would have helped the cause," he said.

For the moment the work's new owner said he still could not believe his luck.

"I'm still in shock. I've never won anything like this before... Obviously," he said.

($1 = 0.7266 euros)

(Reporting By Johnny Cotton and Pauline Mevel; Writing by Johnny Cotton; Editing by Leigh Thomas and Andrew Heavens)

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