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

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

January 21, 2007

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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.”
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“Tomb Raider” True bought looted Greek wreath cheap

January 17, 2007

Getty Museum antiquities curator Marion “Tomb Raider” True’s legal struggles have now extended in to Greece where she faces charges for having knowingly purchased a looted 4th Century BC golden funerary wreath. Among many points of interest in a fabulously juicy story (see NYTimes article) is the claim that she bought the piece through a Swiss middleman for the staggeringly cheap price of 1.1 million USD. Geez, you can’t even get a half-way decent Csontvary for that kinda money. I mean get a load of this thing:

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Funerary Wreath, Greek c.320-300 BC. Gold, with blue and green glass-paste inlays.
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