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Nation’s Largest Picasso Painting At Center Of Lawsuit Involving NYC Eatery

Picasso's 'Le Tricorne' Tapestry hangs in Four Seasons Restaurant (credit: Matthew Peyton/Getty Images)

Picasso’s ‘Le Tricorne’ Tapestry hangs in Four Seasons Restaurant (credit: Matthew Peyton/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York’s storied Four Seasons restaurant has for decades harbored one of the city’s more unusual artworks: the largest Pablo Picasso painting in the United States.

A plan to move it, however, has touched off a spat as sharply drawn as the bullfight crowd the canvas depicts.

Pitting a prominent preservation group against an art-loving real estate magnate, the dispute has unleashed an outcry from culture commentators and a lawsuit featuring dueling squads of art experts.

The owner of the building claims Picasso’s “Le Tricorne,” a 19-by-20-foot painted stage curtain, has to be moved from the restaurant to make way for repairs to the wall behind it.

But a nonprofit that owns the curtain, Landmarks Conservancy, has filed a lawsuit to halt the move.

The group argues the wall damage isn’t dire and that taking the curtain down could destroy it — and, with it, an integral aspect of the Four Seasons’ landmarked interior.

“It’s the iconic center of the Four Seasons restaurant,” Landmarks Conservancy President Peg Breen told WCBS 880’s Jim Smith. “It was given to us as a gift to the city and our task was to keep it in place. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The landlord, RFR Holding Corp., a company co-founded by state Council on the Arts Chairman Aby Rosen, says a structural necessity is being spun into an art crusade.

“This case is not about Picasso,” RFR lawyer Andrew Kratenstein said in court papers. Rather, he wrote, it is about whether an art owner can insist that a private landlord hang a work indefinitely, the building’s needs be damned. “The answer to that question is plainly no.”

“Le Tricorne” has been at the Four Seasons since its 1959 opening in the noted Seagram Building. The restaurant, which isn’t affiliated with the Four Seasons hotel a few blocks away, is the epitome of New York power lunching, having served President Bill Clinton, Princess Diana, Madonna and other A-listers.

The curtain hangs in what’s become known as “Picasso Alley,” a corridor that joins the restaurant’s majestically modern, Phillip Johnson-designed main dining rooms.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)