-- A $15 million Picasso painting was formally turned over to the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., this afternoon, at least 14 years after it was stolen from a Paris museum, officials said.
The painting, “La Coiffeuse,” or “The Hairdresser,” had been discovered by U.S. authorities in a climate-controlled warehouse in New Jersey. France plans to return the painting to The National Museum of Modern Art.
“The recovery and return of stolen artwork and other cultural artifacts remains a significant priority for ICE,” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah R. Saldaña said in a statement. “As our world continues to shrink, protecting cultural treasures has become even more important and we are committed to doing everything we can to return them to their rightful owners.”
Based on “an investigative lead,” ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials targeted a shipment in December in Newark, New Jersey, with a label describing the contents as a “low-value handicraft valued at 30 euros,” or about $33, according to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) news release.
“In reality, the cargo contained a $15 million painting by Picasso, which has been listed on the Interpol Stolen Works of Art database since it was reported stolen in 2001,” ICE said.
Picasso painted the cubist “La Coiffeuse” in 1911 in oil on canvas, officials said. The National Museum of Modern Art reported it stolen in 2001 when museum officials received a loan request and could not locate the painting in their archives.
“Picasso used to say ‘A painting truly exists in the eyes of the beholder,’” Frédéric Doré, deputy chief of mission at the French Embassy, said in a statement. “Returning to the Musée National Museum of Modern Art in Paris, France, [La Coiffeuse] will come back to life and be seen again by the public thanks to this outstanding Franco-American customs cooperation.”
The theft is still under investigation.
ABC News' Madison Morgan contributed to this report.