The New York Landmarks Conservancy filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court on Thursday to prevent the owner of the Seagram Building from taking down the artwork on Sunday, claiming the move could damage it.
Picasso painted the tapestry, which is titled "Le Tricorne," in 1919. For more than 50 years, it has hung in the lobby of the restaurant, which resides in the landmarked Seagram Building in Midtown.
But in November the building's owner, RFR Holding Corp., informed the conservancy of its plans to take down the curtain, claiming a leaky ceiling pipe imperiled the artwork, the lawsuit says. RFR also said that it had structural concerns about the wall behind the Picasso curtain and needed to perform emergency repairs, according to the lawsuit.
The conservancy says those concerns are pure artifice — and the real reason for the removal is that Aby Rosen, the CEO of RFR, dislikes the tapestry and wants to install art of his choosing.
“Mr. Rosen has previously referred to the Picasso curtain as a schmatte, the Yiddish word for rag,” the lawsuit says. “The sole basis for RFR and Mr. Rosen’s insistence that the Picasso curtain be removed is Mr. Rosen’s own admitted dislike of the Picasso curtain.”
The conservancy, whose goal is to preserve and protect historically and culturally significant buildings for the public good, was bequested the curtain in 2005 and instructed to keep it in the Seagram building so long as the Four Seasons remained a landmark.
The conservancy says that when it learned of the removal plans, it had an engineer inspect the allegedly leaky pipe and unsound wall and found nothing wrong, according to the lawsuit.
The conservancy also notes that since the Seagram Building and the Four Seasons restaurant are both landmarked, RFR would have to obtain approval for any work on the wall from the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission. But RFR has not reached out to the commission, according to the lawsuit.
RFR has notified the conservancy that its movers plan to take down the tapestry at 3 a.m. on Sunday, finishing the job before the Four Seasons opened for business that day, according to the lawsuit.
The conservancy says that any move could damage the curtain's paint.
After failing to persuade RFR to halt its plans, the conservancy filed the lawsuit asking for an injunction to Sunday's move.
RFR did not immediately respond for comment.