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.

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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 »

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France caves in to Arab cash, sells half of Louvre

January 29, 2007

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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.
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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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