Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Art Fraud and Art Theft Winter 2014

1. NEW YORK Beltracchi and the Threat to Authentication: 60 Minutes caters to the vanity of Wolfgang Beltracchi in their report on his massively successful forgery scheme.
Bob Simon: Do you think the experts are just incompetent or that they are also frauds, that they pretend to know more than they know?
Wolfgang Beltracchi: No, no nearly all the experts we have met, we met, they were serious, really serious. Their only problem was that I was too good for them. Yes, that was their problem, that’s all. And with all the legal problems they now have, many experts are very hesitant to use their expertise.
Many foundations representing major artists like Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Willem de Kooning are refusing to authenticate works brought to them at all.  Francis O’Connor is the world’s top Jackson Pollock expert.  He says he can spot a fake Pollock in a second, but these days is keeping his opinions to himself.
Bob Simon: What if I were to come to you and say “this has been presented to me as a Pollock”
Francis O’Connor: Someone comes to me about once a week. I just let it go by.
Bob Simon: Let it go by? Francis O’Connor: In other words, ignore it.
Bob Simon: I’m not quite sure I understand.  If I come to you and I say, “Hey, this has been presented to me as a Pollock” and you can see right away that it isn’t, you’re not going to tell me “this is not a Pollock”?
Francis O’Connor: I would be very hesitant to give any opinion at that point, because of the legal situation.
Bob Simon: Where do I go to see whether my painting is a real Pollock or not?
Francis O’Connor: There is nowhere to go.
Art forger Wolfgang Beltracchi’s multimillion dollar scam (60 Minutes)

2. NEW YORK - Smuggled Art Seized in Queens: $8 million worth of art believed to be smuggled into the U.S. by former Manhattan gallery owner and accused looter Subhash Kapoor has been seized by agents of Homeland Security. The federal agents found the hundreds of pieces from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Cambodia in a storage locker in a Queens warehouse owned by a relative of Kapoor. Kapoor currently awaits trial in India for employing looters to pilfer sculptures of Hindu deities, which he then smuggled into the U.S. [NYT]

3. NEW YORK - Basquiat Estate Sues Christie’s: Jean-Michel Basquiat’s sisters, Jeanine Basquiat
Heriveaux and Lisane Basquiat, who run his estate, are suing Christie’s for $1 million after the auction house did not consult them to authenticate more than three dozen works. The estate alleges that the house insinuates in its materials that the works have been authenticated when, in fact, they may be fakes. “Christie’s attempts to deceive and mislead the public into believing that the Estate authorized the reproduction of the artwork in the Catalog and that therefore the Catalog Items are authentic,” the suit states. [NYT]

4. NEW YORK - Museums take action over works looted from India
In advance of next week’s trial against Subhash Kapoor, public collections start to deal with the objects they bought through the New York antiquities dealer
By Javier Pes. Web only
26 February 2014
Shiva as Lord of the Dance (Nataraja), at the National Gallery of Australia
The National Gallery of Australia’s (NGA) bronze sculpture of Shiva as Lord of the Dance (Nataraja), a highlight of its Asian art displays, could be returning to India sooner rather than later. An India court has asked for the restitution of the 11th- to 12th-century Chola dynasty statue of the Hindu god, The Australian newspaper reports.
In an unusual move for a museum that has purchased an object in good faith that later turned out to be looted, the NGA filed a $5m lawsuit on 6 February against the New York gallery Art of the Past and its owner Subhash Kapoor for alleged fraud. In an earlier press statement, Ron Radford, the director of the NGA, said that the institution is discussing “avenues for restitution” with the Indian High Commission.
Meanwhile, the Toledo Museum in Ohio is also in contact with Indian authorities, seeking information about the 64 objects it acquired from Kapoor from 2001 to 2010. The museum is one of several worldwide that purchased art from South and Southeast Asia over the past three decades, or accepted them as gifts from Kapoor. Not all of the items were antiquities, however.
Kapoor, an Indian-born, American citizen, is being held in a jail in Chennai (formerly Madras) awaiting trial, which is due to start on 7 March. He was charged with smuggling antiquities in 2012. There is a warrant for his arrest in the US on charges of possessing stolen property. He denies both charges.
In a New York court last December, the office manager of Art of the Past, Aaron Freedman, pleaded guilty to six counts of criminal possession of stolen property. The NGA’s Shiva was among the items listed as illegally exported from India.

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