Believe it or not: NJ art collector's tale of finding priceless Picasso work at local estate sale

Larry McShane, New York Daily News on

Published in Entertainment News

He also cites a diary of Picasso pal Peter Smith with a December 1955 entry specifically noting “Arthur and Margarita have gone back to NJ with a don Quixote P has given them. Quite large.”

The reference is to Arthur Getz and Margarita Gibbons, two friends of the artist.

Smith, in an earlier entry, also made reference to the earlier Picasso work on March 17, 1955. And since the other Don Quixote was unquestionably created seven months later, Coppola said, the truth of his work is impossible to deny.

Experts at the renowned Sotheby’s auction house declined to weigh in, citing a “no comment” policy on unverified works. An email to equally well-known Christie’s auction house about the piece went unanswered.

And the Picasso Succession, in an email from the Paris headquarters where it oversees the artist’s estate, suggested Coppola simply unearthed “a reproduction of the drawing made by a Communist Association in the 1960s” based on his initial 2010 appeal to the group.

“The Succession states that the work may be a Les Letters Francaises reproduction, which is certainly an error on their part,” responded Coppola. “Additionally the work done for the Communist Party is the August Don Quixote, not my work.”

The estate failed to mention a second submission from Coppola four years later with more evidence, and an in-person attempt for verification that produced no resolution in 2015. A scheduled 2020 live meeting was canceled by COVID-19, and Coppola’s still waiting for another chance at showing his piece to the Picasso gate-keepers.


Coppola, in addition to his own art experts, hired specialists in forgeries, paper, ink, canvas and even the artist’s signature to examine the piece, with all echoing his conclusion. A Christie’s expert once examined the earlier Don Quixote, stopping just short of a stamp of approval but clearly swayed, he recalled.

“It’s a masterpiece,” Coppola insists. “And one that’s magical beyond belief.”

The veteran art collector, who nearly lost the one-of-a-kind work in an apartment fire before realizing its value, plans to release a series of NFTs linked to his “Don Quixote” in an effort to both let people decide for themselves — and to goad the Picasso estate into taking another look.

“We want to put it in the court of public opinion, because we have so much evidence,” he said. “We feel that instead of going back and forth with the Picassos, we’ll let anybody who has an opinion — they can fight it out.”


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