Steve Wynn & the Picasso painting, “Le Reve”

OMG.  Some of you know I love Vegas.  Las Vegas is the greatest escape on the planet.  I’m treated like a king, I reside and sleep in the best accommodations, I’m provided service and selection like no other place on the planet.  And for the most part, I’m not expected to pay for a damned thing.  And being a chowhound, there are very few places where I think you can get a better meal and even fewer where you can remain entertained for the rest of the evening after dinner.

One of my heroes is Steve Wynn, Las Vegas casino magnate.  Say what you want about Steve Wynn and his history with the Mirage and his back and forth with Kirk Kerkorian.  While most wealthy folks are stodgy, engrossed in business, and overly-focused on competing, very few people on the planet have the spirit, entrepreneurship, intellect, "gumption", and… oh yeah… money that Steve Wynn has.  Think Sir Richard Branson.  That’s sort of what I think of when I think "Steve Wynn".

So I say with great respect and admiration that I absolutely laughed my ass off when I heard about this story.

STEVE ELBOWS A PAINTING
Apparently, the story goes that Steve Wynn was about to execute the sale of "Le Reve", one of his most famous painting by Picasso.  He was in front of an audience talking about various paintings that he had in his collection I guess, and during the process of discuss the painting "Le Reve", the very painting that was about to be sold, he accidentally elbowed it. 

HARD.

Yep.   It was said that the painting has sold in 1997 for $48.4 million dollars before Steve Wynn purchased it and it doesn’t seem to be disclosed what he bought it for but I’ve heard $139 million dollars.  And he was about to sell it.

RIIIIIPPPP.

His elbow punctured the painting and there was an audible rip the sailed across the room.  It was dead center on Marie-Thérèse Walter’s left forearm and produced a 2 inch tear.  He even stuck his pinky in through the painting to verify that his elbow had really gone all the way through.

Silence.

Steve apparently suffers from Retinitis Pigmentosa which makes it difficult for him to judge distances.  Apparently the distance between his elbow and the paint was an example of an "object that was closer that it appeared".  So with everyone looking at him and the damage he’d done… with a room full of people staring on in uncomfortable silence, what did Steve say in response to his actions?

"I can’t believe I just did that.  Oh, shit.  Oh… man."

He then turned to his guests and said, "Well, I’m glad I did it and not you." Then he went on his business, talking about the other paintings that he’d been describing throughout the night.  He didn’t throw a fit.  He didn’t overly curse after throwing the "$40M elbow".  (Hell – give the man a break.  If you just seriously damaged $139 million dollars in front of a room of people all staring at the painting, you’d be pretty pissed too.)  He just calmly moved forward.

 

OH, THE HILARITY
I guess that’s what I found so hilarious.  It’s such a foreign perspective to have… the ability to take a bad situation… one so colossally bad that any of us would have been reduced to Jello if we were in the same situation… and just forget about it.

I pride myself in the ability to refocus when things go wrong.  I see so many of our more junior (and some senior) employees just go ape-s#$% on stage when things go wrong.  When a LiveMeeting session won’t start because the Internet connection’s not working and they didn’t plan ahead for just such a catastrophy… when a demo fails and they can’t get anything working… when a presentation computer locks up leaving them without a Powerpoint deck to go off of… that’s when experience comes into play.  That’s when professionality and objectivity are best demonstrated.

But man.  If I ripped a $139 million dollar painting, I’d seriously crap my pants.  Like a deer in the headlights, I’d squeal like a pig, and quickly exit stage right.  Or left.  Or whatever.  But when you’re Steve Wynn, a multi-billionaire hotel & casino mogul, not only is $139 million really not that big a deal, the embarrassment and action of wrecking a treasure is really what’s at stake here.

Even in situations of sheer panic, everything’s relative.

MORE HERE:  http://www.newyorker.com/talk/content/articles/061023ta_talk_paumgarten

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