Mike Koozmin/The ExaminerRowland Weinstein welcomed the return of a Picasso drawing that was stolen from his Union Square gallery earlier this year.

Stolen Picasso sketch back on San Francisco gallery wall

The Pablo Picasso sketch famously stolen from a Union Square art gallery by a preppy unemployed New Jersey sommelier is back on display.

Rowland Weinstein of the Weinstein Gallery at Powell and Geary streets couldn’t help but smile when he hung the Picasso pencil drawing “Tête de Femme” Monday morning.

The apparently undamaged piece had been stored as police evidence since it was stolen July 5. Visitors from around the world have been coming into the gallery daily asking to see the famous piece, Weinstein said.

“Today is a very exciting day we thought may never happen,” he gushed.

The artwork will be bolted into the wall, Weinstein said, and new surveillance cameras and a security guard have been installed in response to the brazen heist.

The value of the piece as increased dramatically. Weinstein bought it months before the heist for $122,500. After the theft, one bidder offered $375,000 for the piece, he said.

Weinstein says he has no plans to sell it.

“It’s become such an important part not just of our story, but I think the story of artwork in San Francisco,” he said.

Also Monday, 31-year-old Mark Lugo was formally sentenced to 16 months in state prison for stealing the sketch.

ugo is expected to be extradited to New York, where he faces charges in connection to the theft of 11 other pricey artworks from Manhattan hotels and galleries. After he was arrested in the Bay Area, New Jersey police raided his Hoboken apartment and found the art hung on the walls or “laying about.”

Police don’t believe he was planning to resell any of the stolen paintings. He has been called the “Thomas Crown of art thieves” for his finer tastes. He is also accused of stealing three rare bottles of wine worth $2,000 apiece from a New Jersey store.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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