Here's when Evansville's mysterious Pablo Picasso piece will finally go on display

EVANSVILLE – Years after it was discovered, and decades after it first arrived in the city, a glass artwork bearing Pablo Picasso's name will finally be unveiled to the public.

The Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science will display "Seated Woman with Red Hat" for museum members only beginning Sunday, June 23, spokeswoman Chelsie Walker said in a news release on Thursday.

Members will continue their exclusive access that Monday and Tuesday before the museum officially opens the piece to everyone at 11 a.m. on June 26. Evansville Mayor Stephanie Terry will commemorate the moment with a ribbon-cutting.

Media will be barred from the members-only viewings, but will be allowed to see the Picasso an hour before the public unveiling, Walker said.

The move comes almost 12 years after the museum sparked national headlines by announcing it had discovered "Seated Woman" languishing in storage, where it had apparently been waiting since 1963.

Famed industrial designer Raymond Loewy – the man behind the Lucky Strike logo and the outside design of Air Force One – gifted it to his friend, former Evansville Museum director Siegfried Weng, that year. But instead of labeling it as a Picasso, officials listed the artist as "Gemmaux," a word for the process used to create it.

Thinking they had a work by some obscure French artist instead of one of the masters of the 20th century, they tucked it into storage for almost 50 years and didn't discover it until 2012.

After an attempt to sell it to a New York auction house failed to materialize, the piece's whereabouts became a mystery and no one outside the museum's inner-circle ever laid eyes on it. But that will change later this month.

"Seated Woman with Red Hat." The rare Pablo Picasso fired-glass mosiac was found in storage at the Evansville Museum in 2012.
"Seated Woman with Red Hat." The rare Pablo Picasso fired-glass mosiac was found in storage at the Evansville Museum in 2012.

Did Picasso actually create the piece?

The artwork is a recreation of a Picasso painting made through a process called "gemmail," in which fragments of painted glass are bonded together with heated enamel. The piece is then lit from the back, allowing its myriad colors to shine.

According to the Corning Museum of Glass, French artist Jean Crotti founded the technique in the 1930s and began working with lighting expert Roger Malherbe-Navarre, who opened a studio in Paris in the 1950s.

Scores of artists flocked there, eager to have their works recreated using the new technique. Picasso was one of them.

But although "Seated Woman" bears his name, it's unclear how hands-on Picasso was in creating it. According to a 1961 article in the Cincinnati Enquirer about a traveling gemmail exhibit, “expert craftsmen” take painted glass slabs of varying thickness and fit them together while others stand on stepladders above them, telling their partners where the pieces should go to best filter the light.

"The artist himself," the articles states, "does not execute the work.”

Museum trying to raise millions for Picasso piece display

According to the release, the unveiling will be a "preview" of the piece's permanent home.

Last week, the Vanderburgh County Council approved $300,000 in tourism money to cap a $2.5 million museum fundraising effort to renovate the wing where "Seated Woman" will hang. That work is part of a two-phase project the museum has said will cost $9.5 million when it's all said and done.

Phase two, however, won't begin for several years. The museum initially asked council for $500,000, but some councilors were reportedly "confused" by the multiple phases and told museum officials to come back later to ask for the rest of the money.

None of that, however, will stop "Seated Woman" from finally going on display.

This article originally appeared on Evansville Courier & Press: Here's when the Evansville Picasso piece will finally go on display