Christie’s employs incompetence as smuggling technique

October 7, 2007

Christie’s is using a variety of techniques to get the paintings out of Europe and over to the unquenchable NY market. Recently, that has meant fronting legal fees for WWII-era restitution claims. But now we hear of a new method, which we might call accidental-but-actually-intentional smuggling.

rubens-hunt-of-meleanger-and-atalanta.jpg

The case centers around an oil sketch of The Hunt of Meleager and Atalanta by Rubens. The picture was the star lot in Christie’s old master sale in London in December of 2005, going for £3,144,000. The Art Newspaper reports that name of the buyer has not emerged, but he is understood to be a private collector from the New York area. Read the rest of this entry »


THE DECIDER now gets to even decide Provenance

October 1, 2007

Um…didn’t anyone notice the spectacular irony in this?!! Leonard Lauder, older brother of “RestitutionRonald, is now having his own Klimt demanded back from him. Better yet, the piece was sold to Leonard by Ronald’s long time mentor Serge Sabarsky. It was Sabarsky’s idea to persuade Ronald to open the Neue Galerie back in 1996, soon before he died. He is now immortalized with over-priced Sacher Torte at the museum’s Cafe Sabarsky. We also witness the re-emergence Shoah-Chaser Randol E. Schoenberg (you know, grandson of 12-tone Arnold), but this time, instead of helping the Lauders acquire Klimts, he’s shaking them down for one they already own. And even with all this fabulous Viennese Secession Incest that’s really not the story here.

No folks, what is really big news here is that now the THE DECIDER can decide about the provenance of a painter’s oeuvre. This may sound like a minor development, but if Schoenberg’s strategy works it could place certain anointed art historians (basically those who write the catalogue raisonne for a given painter) in position to pass judgments worth millions of dollars. Alfred Weidinger has tred into this uncharted territory with his compendium of Klimt’s entire oeuvre.

Just look at this case, for example. Klimt painted Blooming Meadows around 1904-5

klimt-blooming-meadows-c1904.jpg

Read the rest of this entry »


Christie’s: Yo, European Museums, we’re coming for your artworks!

February 26, 2007

It used to be back in the good old days of Duveen & Co. that the insatiable NY market would have top artworks smuggled out of Europe in false-bottom suitcases. Now Christie’s has struck upon a new tactic: providing legal support to heirs with restitution claims for artworks in European public collections. Since such procedures can take decades, it’s an expensive investment of resources for the auction house, but the strategy is now starting to pay enormous dividends.

Auction records for three Central European expressionists have all been set by restituted art works:
kirchner-street_scene_berlin-c1913.jpg schiele-krumau2-c1916.jpg klimt-portrait-of-adele-bloch-bauer2-c1913.jpg
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Street Scene-Berlin ($38 million); Egon Schiele’s View of Krumau ($24 million); Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II ($87 million)
Read the rest of this entry »


China: Sports more important than Culture

February 7, 2007

China is using the Olympics as the steamroller for a vast array of infrastructural developments that just happen to also be destroying a lot of artifacts. If Rome is the best place to currently ponder the eternal battle between Archaeology and the Art Market, then China is the best place consider the nexus of Urban Development, Cultural Destruction, and Wholesale Tomb Raiding.
Read the rest of this entry »


France caves in to Arab cash, sells half of Louvre

January 29, 2007

saadiyat-island-and-louvre.jpg
The French government has struck upon a truly brilliant method to dump their underutilized art objects on the culture-starved, status-craving gulf statelet of Abu Dhabi. The dynamics of the relationship are not that different than what Duveen realized in the late 19C when he saw that Americans had a lot of money and Europeans had a lot of art. Primary difference nowadays is that the relationship is between states and their public collections, but the dynamics work just the same as it did between private sellers (impoverished aristocrats) and buyers (American robber barons) in Duveen’s time. And of course, these days it’s the gulf states that have a lot of cash.
Read the rest of this entry »


Romans locate suspected site of ancient she-wolf suckle

January 28, 2007

Underfunded Italian archaeologists have discovered a vaulted chamber on Rome’s Palatine Hill that they believe may be the grotto worshipped as the site where Romulus and Remus suckled the she-wolf. The AP article explains that Italian archaeologists are extremely short of funds, and may have trouble fully excavating their new finds, which are part of the area around Augustus’ palace. I find this very profound, because Palatine Hill is ground zero for the birth of the Art Market, where Popes started digging up statuary in the 15th Century and began art collecting as we know it.
Read the rest of this entry »


“Tomb Raider” True: Getty knew all about my shopping habits

January 21, 2007

marion_ture-trial2.jpg
Marion “Tomb Raider” True is accusing her former employers, the Getty Museum, of acting all like they didn’t know nothing about her buying habits. Although she officially served as their Curator of Antiquities from 1986 – 2005, in fact, True was a super high-end picker of Greek and Roman loot with the Spending Budget of the Century. NYTimes reports that, in her legal defense, she delivered a copy to the Italian court of her own letter she wrote to the Getty directors back in December, in which she accused them of leaving her to “carry the burden” of the institution’s collecting practices, even though her superiors at the museum and the trust had “approved all of the acquisitions made during my tenure.”
Read the rest of this entry »