Monday, May 04, 2015

Antiques Roadshow Season 20

On May 30th Antiques Roadshow Season 20 starts in Tucson, Arizona. We were honored to have started with the show in Season 1 in San Antonio and will be in every city for this current season. I will be flying o Tucson, Spokane, and Cleveland and then driving to Omaha, Little Rock and Charleston. The plan is to arrive Thursday afternoon and then return home on Sunday. If you are in or around any of these cities or enroute to the ones I am driving and need appraisal or authentication services, contact us and maybe we can schedule a visit.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Great Photos from Around the World Spring 2015

 Bald Eagle Shaking It Off

 Capetown, South Africa

 Jumping Over an Ice Cave in Austria

 Limestone Hills Yunnan Province China

 Milky Way Over Bartlett, Texas

 Monument Valley Utah

Village of Kaveripattinam, Tamil Nadu, India

Weaver Bird Mimosa Tree, Ethiopia

African, Pre-Columbian, and Indian Spring 2015

 Maya Shell Pendant
Ad 600 - 900
L.  2 1/2"
Carlebach Coll., New York

 Yoruba lidded Divination Bowl
Diameter 22"
c. 1st quarter 20th century
Mort Lipkin Coll.

 Arussi Stone Memorial Figure
South Central Ethiopia
Ht. 65 1/4"
Houston Collection

Benin Shrine Head
19th Century
Ht. 17"
Carlebach Coll, New York

 Maya vase
AD 600 - 800
Ht. 6 3/4"
Foxworth Coll., Dallas

 Sioux Model Cradle
c. 1920
Ht. 7"

Benin Hip Mask
Ht. 6.5"
Late 18th to early 19th century
Ex Harry Franklin Collection, Los Angeles

Auction News Spring 2015

1. NEW YORK Auctionata Lays Off Half of New York Staff
April 21, 2015 
Today, the online auction platform Auctionata laid off more than 30 employees in its 60-person New York office. Just last October, the firm held its first sale from the North American outpost;
the majority of the staff there joined last year.The company is changing its business strategy with a focus on maximizing cost-efficiency, according to a source in New York, who was let go and wished to remain anonymous. The cuts follow the elimination of 100 positions in Auctionata’s Berlin headquarters earlier this month, where 250 people had previously been employed.
Since it launched in 2012, Auctionata has raised over $95 million in private capital. Last month, the online auction platform secured $45 million C round funding. The firm reported sales in 2014 of $41 million, a 163 percent increase from 2013. Auctionata officials had not yet formulated an explanation of today’s events when reached for comment.

2. NEW YORK Auctionata Joseph Stasko, Auctionata’s chief operating officer, told ARTINFO on Wednesday morning that the firm’s dismissals mark the next phase in their business
development. “The effort to launch [a company] is very different than the effort that goes into sustaining growth….. You can’t necessarily know ahead of time the machinery that you want,” he said. Stasko declined to characterize the restructuring as a shift in Auctionata’s business strategy, however. “If you are a client looking at Auctionata, there is absolutely no difference,” he said,
referring to the ongoing fine art and collectible sales. Though staggered, the layoffs earlier this month
in Berlin and yesterday in New York represent the same effort to “centralize and streamline” the organization, Stasko said. All of the departments across the firm were affected by the cuts.
Future employment at Auctionata will “grow in tandem with the volume and sales,” Stasko added.
Auctionata followed up with this written statement: Establishing full-scale operations in New York in less than a year required a tremendous effort by a large cadre of employees, some of whose functions related solely to the launch. Going forward, Auctionata is taking full advantage of its unique technological business model to operate with great efficiency. Even so, as growth continues at a rapid pace both in New York and globally, fueled by the $45 million in new capital raised this month, Auctionata is planning gradual staff expansion over the balance of 2015 and into the future.

3. NEW YORK Auctionata Raises Another $45m In Demonstration of the Power of Live Auctions
March 30, 2015 by Marion Maneker
Auctionata Techcrunch says that Auctionata has gone back to the VCs for another $45m making the total capital raised close to $100m. Most of the appeal seems to be in lower-priced objects and the home shopping aspect of selling art through live auctions:
The tide is rising for live streaming services, and just as this is lifting apps, other kinds of streaming startups are seeing a boost as well. Today, Auctionata, a Berlin startup that broadcasts
online live auctions for fine art and collectibles, announced that it raised €42 million ($45 million) in a Series C round of funding from a group investors led by MCI Management and including
Hearst Ventures. Auctionata plans to use the money to expand its service to new geographies and new categories. […] New auction areas will include musical instruments, memorabilia (think ‘original Mickey Mouse ears’ and old baseball cards), architectural and garden pieces, diamonds, and real estate. It also plans to put investment into categories that it already offers like watches, classic cars,
wine, jewelry, design, contemporary art, fine art, antiques and Asian art; and also into the tech behind its live stream auction format.Auctionata Raises $45M To Build Out Its Live-Streamed Auction Business (TechCrunch)

3.  NEW YORK Christies -Since the question—What’s Christie’s Trying to Do to the Auction Schedule?—has been raised, it is worth adding the observation that this move is likely a harbinger of
much more aggressive competition between the auction houses. The field of play is shifting from commissions and guarantees to broader thinking about who buys art, when and how. With
Sotheby’s bringing in a new CEO who is backed by a bold activist with few ties to conducting business as usual and Phillips mounting a campaign to expand its market niche, almost everything
about the most valuable sector of the auction market will come under scrutiny.
Most of the talk in the press has been about online sales. But the real opportunities—as Christie’s is demonstrating—come in addressing the needs and behaviors of the Ultra High Net Worth
customers who are Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips’s focus. Christie’s seems to have moved their
Impressionist and Modern sale for simple commercial reasons. The Venice Biennale presented a distraction and the firm had already built their weak around its “hybrid sale.” The late timing of the calendar move suggests the specialists were in touch with their clients and Christie’s calculated that its results—the firm’s most important marketing tool—would be better with the Impressionist and Modern sales moved later in the week. There’s no reason to believe that Sotheby’s will be immediately hurt by the move. Their Imp-Mod Evening sale was slated to precede Christie’s. Now it comes 10 days earlier instead of one. How Sotheby’s will respond in the next sale cycle will probably be part of a much broader strategy change put in place by the new CEO. But the move does put Sotheby’s and Phillips on notice that Christie’s plans to move forward on its momentum and not wait to see what moves the other houses make.

My Word - Rites of Passage Spring 2015

Often the thought of experiencing a rite of passage is accompanied by the dread of dealing with another milestone. Sometimes these events such as the passing of a loved one are negative and very difficult to get through. But these milestones especially those accompanied by age are not negative and should be celebrated. My feeling is that I earned the experience gained by 40 years in business, 25 years married, and now this summer 20 years as an appraiser on Antiques Roadshow. Yes I am probably closer to the end than the beginning, but with the challenging events in the art world today its exciting to be a part of it.

In this issue we have a follow up on the events in the Middle East which have resulted in a rather broad legislative effort that gives our government very wide latitude in determining what we can and cannot do in art world. The almost unfathomable atrocities in Iraq and Syria should give all of pause to reconsider James Cuno's concept of universal museums to spread the risk. A believe a former administration official opined that one should never let a crisis go to waste. We as an international people need to be less territorial when it comes to protecting what in reality is the patrimony of the planet and not just a single country. When cretins can destroy cultures with impunity maybe we should begin then to see ourselves as more than protectors of our little corner of the planet. It is irrational to believe that a terrorist will stop destroying property because legislation may have impacted markets. I urge you again to subscribe to Newsletter of the Committee for Cultural Policy ( to follow all these changes.

 I am delighted to announce a reciprocal exchange of information with the blog started by Bruno Classens in 2013. "Bruno Claessens (b. 1983) graduated in 2005 as historian. In 2003, through his wife Griet Blomme, herself an ethnography graduate, he first came into contact with African art at the Sablon in Brussels. From 2007 to 2010, he got better acquainted with all aspects of the African art world while being the assistant of Guy van Rijn in Brussels. In Summer 2010, he organized the exhibition “Vlijmscherp” (Razor Sharp) with African weapons from the Ethnographic Collection of the University of Ghent. Between 2010 and 2012, he was archivist of the Yale University-van Rijn Archive of African Art. At present, he works as an independent expert in African art, advisor and curator." Bruno is a knowledgeable scholar in the ethnographic field and has a good sense of what's happening in Europe. Bruno is also very well informed of the ethnographic markets and provides useful insight in his blog to which I encourage you to subscribe.
Just today Bruno has informed us with his latest blog entry that the Fowler has the Jay Last Lega collection online. It was an honor to work with Jay on the appraisal of his collection, which will now be an amazing resource for anyone interested in African art. Thank you to Jay, the Fowler, and everyone else who made this possible.

We have known for some time that China's geopolitical strategic planning was heavily focused on Africa and the mineral assets it could provide. This realization fueled rumors of various African art dealers trying to expand the ethnographic market into China. We learn now from Art Market Monitor that a Chinese partnership has created an African Art Fund. At the moment this effort seems to be focusing on contemporary African art, but will this continue to be the case? We will give you the benefit of our research in this issue.

And finally Don Miller, the 91 year old collector in Indiana who's collection was seized by the FBI has died. It has been a year but still no word from the FBI and still no charges filed against Miller. We will talk about this a bit more and give you ARCA's (Association for Research into Crimes against Art ) thoughts from their blog.

Art Market - Contemporary African Art Spring 2015

This story has intrigued a number of people both here and in the UK where London has now become the center of the world of contemporary African art. When Bonhams began holding their auctions  there were many that thought there was not a market that could sustain this type of sale. Obviously, they were wrong; and so a contemporary art fund is not necessarily big news.  However, considering the geopolitical realities, I wonder if this art fund will continue to focus only on contemporary African art.

1. LONDON - China and African Art
African Chinese Partnership Leads to African Art Fund
April 13, 2015 by Marion Maneker
Dabing Chen, Herman Steyn
The Art Newspaper has discovered a collaboration between a Chinese entrepreneur and a South African fund manager to create an African art fund that closely tracks the new Zeitz museum:
The Scheryn Art Collectors Fund, which will invest in artists from Africa and its diaspora, has been set up by the South African investment manager Herman Steyn and the Chinese-born, South Africa-based businessman Dabing Chen.
It costs a minimum R500,000 (around $40,500) to buy into the fund and annual management charges are 2%. There is no time limit for investments, but Steyn says that those hoping for a quick return should look elsewhere. […] Steyn and his partner have provided initial funding of R20m ($1.6m) and hope to raise a total R500m ($40.5m).
Steyn says that the trustees of the Scheryn art fund will be advised by a board of art experts and they intend to buy the work of “well established artists who give you more reliable price appreciation; middle tier artists who we believe are going to emerge; and then some really new, young artists”. […]
Dabing is the founder of the Chensia group of companies, which has interests in mining, jewellery and wine, and trades goods between South Africa and China. He has also set up cultural initiatives between the two countries. Meanwhile, Steyn is a director at Prescient, the only African investment fund that has a licence to invest in Chinese markets.
Africa is the new China, so it must be time for a dedicated art fund (The Art Newspaper)

1B. LONDON -Scheryn Art Fund invests in Africa - South African financier Herman Steyn has established the country’s first art fund and is working with Chinese entrepreneur Dabing Chen, also based in Africa. The project has taken three years to create, called the Scheryn Art Collectors Fund, investing in artists from Africa and its diaspora.  A team of researchers and independent evaluators are behind the fund, held by a trust and governed by a board.
Founders Herman Steyn and Dabing Chen. Images courtesy: Scheryn Art Collectors Fund
 Steyn has a background in actuarial science and is now turning to art to apply a professional practice to the marketplace to make investments more valuable, “You want something to appreciate," he told South Africa’s publication Financial Mail, adding "you don’t have to sell it to realise its value."
 The Scheryn Art Fund has already made a donation of several hundred thousand dollars to the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA), a project developed at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. The move was made to link the two brands together and the cohesion aims to provide further visibility to the fund.
 One of the fund’s concepts is to allow investors to borrow art purchased by the fund. Focusing on artworks with international appeal, Steyn said "this is about putting African art on the world stage and making it globally competitive." However, the fund is not designed for those looking for a quick return on their investment said the creator, suggesting a wait of at least five years, and ideally ten years for investments to mature. It costs a minimum of $40,500 to buy into the Scheryn Art Fund, and annual management charges are 2%, which are the same as more generalist funds. Steyn and his partner have already provided initial funding of $1.6 million.
 Founders told The Art Newspaper that events this year will add much needed fuel to interest in African art. The Venice Biennale is lining up artists, curated by Nigerian-born Okwui Enwezor.

1c. LONDON - African contemporary art long remained on the sidelines, but it is starting to attract a lot of interest from both curators and collectors.
A sign of this change is 1:54, the first art fair dedicated exclusively to African contemporary art, which was launched two years ago in London and which will be opening to a new audience in New York from 15 to 17 May this year. The fair’s founder, Touria El Glaoui believes that it is high time that this kind of event made the news. “It is about independence, recognition and respect for our art. And this status is never given, it’s taken.”
The Venice Biennale Art Director, Okwui Enwezor, no doubt shares this point of view. His African heritage was no doubt one of the reasons for his nomination, with 16 artists of African origin presenting their work this year, including Adel Abdessemed, Barthelemy Toguo, Sammy Baloji, and Ibrahim Mahama.
And these may also be the precursors that drove South African financier Herman Steyn and Chinese business Dabing Chen to create the Scheryn Art Collectors Fund, an investment fund dedicated to contemporary art in Africa. Advised by art market specialists, they intend investing both in safe names and taking a gamble on young contemporary artists.  One slightly unusual feature of the fund is its intention to support African museums.  To this end, a donation has already been made to the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art in Cape Town. The two founders are currently looking for new investors prepared to contribute around $40,000 to the project. But be careful, Herman Steyn recommends that speculators look elsewhere as “it could take up to five years, or possibly even ten, for the artists’ ratings to rise”.

2. LONDON.- Inside the White Cube presents an exhibition of new paintings by Kenyan born, London-based artist Michael Armitage. This is Armitage's first solo exhibition in the UK.
Armitage weaves multiple truths into his lyrical, figurative paintings which focus primarily on narratives from his native country, Kenya. Using oil paint on Lubugo – a traditional bark cloth from Uganda – he applies the paint in layers, sometimes scraping back, revising and repainting his images which are fused together from a wide range of sources including media news, East African legends, internet chat and images lodged in his own personal memory. In the painting Mpeketoni (2015),

Armitage refers to the terrorist attack by Somali militants on the North Coast of Kenya during the last World Cup, where forty-eight men were killed in cold-blood. Armitage depicts a group of women carrying one of the wounded outstretched on a shroud-like cloth, echoing a Goya etching called Feminine Folly from the series ‘Los Disparates’ (c. 1816–23). While in Accident (2015), for which the starting point was a photograph of a bus crash, he revisits a scene of personal trauma: a plane crash he experienced as a teenager, with his father and uncle, deep in the Kenyan bush.

Authentication and Conservation Spring 2015

1. LONDON (AFP).- The results are in of a battle that pitted London's culture vultures against a Chinese workshop churning out replicas of the world's most famous paintings, revealing a clear victory for the cut-price masters. For nearly three months, visitors to London's Dulwich Picture Gallery have pored over 270 paintings in its permanent collection, including works by Rembrandt, Rubens and Gainsborough, knowing that there was one $120 (109-euro) fake in their midst. Around 3,000 people voted for their pick of the replica, but only 300 correctly identified it as French artist Jean-Honore Fragonard's 18th century portrait "Young Woman".

2. SAN FRANCISCO San Francisco museum finds 200-year-old DNA in African works
OUT OF AFRICA: An early 20th-century Songola sculpture (far left) and a 19th-century Kusu figure, both from the Democratic
Republic of Congo. The works are in the collection of Richard Scheller, who has
collaborated with and donated pieces to the De Young Museum
A collection of Sub-Saharan African sculpture from a private US collection has undergone DNA analysis to identify the species of tree used to create the works. The process could be used to

authenticate pieces and to provide scholars with more information about the cultures that made them.
The longtime African art collector Richard Scheller, a leading biochemist and an executive vice-president at the biotech corporation Genentech, is working with Lesley Bone, the chief curator at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. “There is a constant issue around authenticity in African art,” Scheller says, and the pair decided that identifying the species of trees used could help to address this issue. “If the species of tree didn’t grow on the continent of Africa, then you might wonder if your object was authentic or not.” Works have also been X-rayed and CT scanned in the run-up to “Embodiments: Masterworks of African Figurative Sculpture” (until 5 July), an exhibition at the museum of 120 pieces from Scheller’s collection. He donated works to the institution in 2013 and 2014, and has pledged to give more in the future.  More..

3.NEW YORK What Happens When You Lose Your Certificate of Authenticity for That Conceptual Work?1
April 1, 2015 by Marion Maneker
Lewitt Installation
A work of conceptual art can be installed in a collectors house where it sits and is enjoyed for many years. But when it comes time to move and recreate the work, or even sell it, collectors can find that a crucial element might have gotten over looked in time. So insurance brokers Crystal & Company and AIG have developed a way to protect owners of conceptual art from a loss of the all-important certificate of authenticity:
Conceptual art is focused more on the idea being expressed, while the form and material are secondary. A certificate is provided by the artist to authenticate an item and without this, the piece is considered worthless. Therefore, if the certificate was lost or damaged, the item may have lost most of its value, according to Crystal & Company.
Historically, references to lost or damaged certificates of ownership have not been spelled out in fine art insurance policies, which can lead to uncertainty in the event of a claim. The endorsement created by AIG insurers in collaboration with Crystal & Co. specifies where conceptual artwork is covered.
“Since a piece of paper is often the only document essentially giving value to a work of conceptual art, we wanted to find a way to protect our clients’ investments even if something happens to their certificate.” Jonathan Crystal, executive vice president of Crystal & Company.
Ron Fiamma, global head of Private Collections for AIG Private Client Group said the coverage idea is an effective way for the companies to address the concerns of their shared clients.
“Conceptual art collecting has increased in recent years, and as a result we have fielded more questions about policy contract coverage,” he said.
Crystal & Company, AIG Launch Conceptual Art Insurance Product for Private Clients

IRS and US Museums Spring 2015

NEW YORK Tax Exposé Shows Private Museum Details
January 12, 2015 by Marion Maneker
Mitchell and Emily Rales
The past two weeks have seen an onslaught of art market coverage from the New York Times suggesting—if the magazine cover indicator is still in effect (the indicator says that when a subject becomes visible enough to warrant a magazine cover, it is sign the trend has already peaked)—we may already be past the top of the art market or interest in art.
The Times’s two previous stories were a provocative profile of collector Stefan Simchowitz and a summary of the trend toward auction houses providing direct guarantees to goose their profit margins while assuming greater risk.
This weekend it was time for another summary article. Patricia Cohen put together a very good round up of the issue surrounding private museums and their incredible growth over the last eight years. For those unfamiliar with the art world, this will be news. To the rest of us, the growth of private museums is part of what has been driving the art market, especially in the years since the credit crisis.
Here Cohen provides some useful context:
Collectors used to be able to donate works to a museum while keeping the art in their own homes while they were still alive. But a change in the tax law in 2006 outlawed the practice.
Although there are no verifiable figures on the precise number of private art museums and foundations in the United States, art advisers and tax experts who deal with wealthy collectors say the total is growing. “There’s definitely been a major uptick in this area,” said Adam von Poblitz, head of estate planning at Citi Private Bank and a tax expert. He said he was currently in discussions with a half-dozen families about creating private museums or private operating foundations for their art collections.
Even better are the asset figures that Cohen culled from tax filings. Mitchell Rales’s Glenstone museum has total assets (not all in art) valued at $702m; Peter Brant’s Greenwich foundation lists $93m; and Andrew Hall’s foundation in Vermont comes in at $38m.
Much of the reaction to the article depends upon the reader. That includes the way that private collections are presented in the article. Attendance figures for the Barnes Collection—which was moved to the center of Philadelphia for greater public access, a move opposed by many who primarily view art as a public trust—were offered in comparison to the limited access of the Brant and other foundations.
Art Collectors Gain Tax Benefits From Private Museums  (

2. NEW YORK - Tax Break Used by Investors in Flipping Art Faces Scrutiny
Introduced in the 1920s to ease the tax burden of farmers who wanted to swap property, it soon became a tool for real estate investors flipping, say, office buildings for shopping malls.
Now, this little-known provision in the tax code, known as a like-kind exchange, has become a popular tactic for a new niche of investors: buyers of high-end art who want to put off — and sometimes completely avoid — federal taxes when upgrading their Diebenkorns for Rothkos.
“You can defer millions of dollars of taxes,” said Josh Baer, an art adviser who helps clients take advantage of the tool.
The exchanges have become prevalent enough, and the cost to the government significant enough, that the Obama administration is seeking to eliminate them, a prospect causing no shortage of alarm in sectors of the art world... More

Looting, Repatriation and Disasters Spring 2015

1. CAIRO (AFP).- Egypt said on Sunday it has recovered 123 ancient artefacts that had been smuggled outside the country and were later confiscated in New York. Egypt's major archaeological
sites were targeted for looting after the 2011 uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak. Thousands of artefacts, most obtained from illicit digs, later surfaced on the international
market, at auction and on websites. The 123 artefacts to be returned were "illegally taken outside Egypt, and have been confiscated by the US customs authority in New York," Antiquities
Minister Mamdouh al-Damati said in a statement.
"Egypt proved its ownership of the artefacts and the United States has decided to return them." More Information:

2. San Diego, California - The 10 News Digital Team for ABC's 10 News reported yesterday "Stolen art recovered in Del Mar among objects being returned to Italian government". Three frescos
and an asks from a private collector (the Allen E. Paulson Trust" were discovered by the U.S.
owner "forfeited the items" to the US government to be returned to the Italian government, Channel 10 reported. The items were likely illegally dug up in Pompeii and then sold to an American
buyer, according to the US government. More Information:

3. In 2014 Homeland Security Special Agent Brenton Easter, part of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, contacted the Honolulu Museum of Art having determined that a
2000-year-old terracotta rattle may have been looted and tied to the antiquities looting case against New York art dealer Subhash Kapoor. More Information:

4. Jill Disis reported March 26 for Gannet's Indystar that Indiana resident and electrical engineer Don Miller died at the age of 91, one year after the FBI seized his collection of antiquities and
artifacts: News reports in the aftermath of the government seizure were awash with tales from those who had seen his collection, which reportedly included Aztec figurines, Ming Dynasty jade
and an Egyptian sarcophagus. Miller never faced any charges related to his collection. More Information:

5. KATHMANDU (AFP).- Reduced to piles of rubble and splintered wood, Nepal's rich cultural heritage has suffered a devastating blow from a massive earthquake that tore through the
country, experts said Sunday. In the heart of Kathmandu, many of a cluster of temples and statues built between the 12th and 18th centuries by the ancient kings of Nepal have collapsed, killing
scores and trapping others underneath. The nine-storey Dharahara tower, a major tourist attraction in the city's Durbar square with its spiral staircase of 200 steps, was reduced to just its
base when the 7.8-magnitude quake struck at lunchtime on Saturday.

6. BERN What’s Still Left in the Gurlitt Mess? A Whole Lot
March 30, 2015 by Marion Maneker
File photo of name plate on the house of art collector Cornelius Gurlitt in Salzburg
Nicholas O’Donnell outlines the mess that’s still unresolved in the Gurlitt case. The snippets below don’t contain O’Donnell’s links and it is well worth clicking through to read the whole of
O’Donnell’s post: For starters, ever week that goes by raises more questions about what, exactly the Gurlitt Task Force that was charged one year ago with reviewing the entire collection for Nazi-looting problems, has done.  The Task Force has identified a mere three objects publicly for restitution in that time: Two Riders on the Beach by Max Liebermann, Seated Woman by Henri
Gurlitt Bequest to Kunstmuseum Bern is Upheld, Little Else Resolved.
Matisse, and a drawing by Carl Spitzweg.  […] Last week, somewhat hopefully, it was reported that the German Minister of Culture Monika Grütters had signed off on the immediate restitution of the Matisse and the Liebermann.  Once certainly hopes this is the case.  but what is happening or has happened?  It could be that the Task Force intends to make its conclusions known in one fell swoop.  But they are not saying that, nor is the German government. […]  All of this is made even stranger by the recent prospect of the so-called “Conny Leaks”—a collection of Hildebrand Gurlitt’s sales records and papers apparently recovered from Cornelius’s home(s), now possibly in the possession of his attorneys.  The SZ piece contends that the Task Force has not even seen (or possibly even asked to see) these papers, begging the question of how thorough its investigation could be.

ARCA Blog Looks at the Don Miller Case Spring 2015

ARCA (Association for Research into Crimes against Art) has asked some important questions as we mark the passing of 91 year old collector Don Miller. Miller was raided by the FBI in April 2014 and suffered the indignation of having his collection seized. No charges have been filed; however, many in the art world are wondering what justifies this sort of invasive and expensive response on the part of multiple government agencies.

 INDIANAPOLIS April 4, 2014
  FBI reportedly seizes private collection of cultural artifacts of 91-year-old Donald C. Miller with any arrest or charge; retired FBI agent Virginia Curry and anthropologist Kathleen Whitaker
add their perspective
The Indianapolis Star interviewed Miller in 1998.
 by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor
Diana Penner, a journalist for The Indianapolis Star reported in an article ("FBI seizes thousands of artifacts from rural Ind. home", April 3) published by USA Today (along with contributions
from the Associated Press) that on Wednesday, April 2, FBI agents took:
"thousands" of cultural artifacts, including American Indian items, from the private collection of a
man, Don Miller, has not been arrested or charged. Robert A. Jones, special agent in charge of the Indianapolis FBI office, would not say at a news conference specifically why the investigation
was initiated, but he did say the FBI had information about Miller's collection and acted on it by deploying its art crime team. FBI agents are working with art experts and museum curators,
and neither they nor Jones would describe a single artifact involved in the investigation, but it is a massive collection. Jones added that cataloging of all of the items found will take longer than
"weeks or months."
"Frankly, overwhelmed," is how Larry Zimmerman, professor of anthropology and museum studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis described his reaction. "I have never
seen a collection like this in my life except in some of the largest museums."
The monetary value of the items and relics has not been determined, Jones said, but the cultural value is beyond measure. In addition to American Indian objects, the collection includes items
from China, Russia, Peru, Haiti, Australia and New Guinea, he said. The items were found in a main residence, in which Miller lives; a second, unoccupied residence on the property; and in
several outbuildings, Jones said. The town originally was Iroquois land. The objects were not stored to museum standards, Jones said, but it was apparent Miller had made an effort to
maintain them well. The aim of the investigation is to determine what each artifact is, where it came from and how Miller obtained it, Jones said, to determine whether some of the items might
be illegal to possess privately. Jones acknowledged that Miller might have acquired some of the items before the passage of U.S. laws or treaties prohibited their sale or purchase. In addition,
the investigation could result in the "repatriation" of any of the cultural items, Jones said.
Dark Rain Thom, a Shawnee descendant who served on the Indiana Native American Indian Affairs Commission under three governors, said the motives of such collectors vary, and that it's not
uncommon for collections to come to light when an elderly person dies and descendants try to figure out what to do with artifacts. Often, she said, family members then quietly donate them to
museums or arrange to return them to specific tribes — if that provenance can be determined. Some collectors are motivated by money, as the artifacts' sale can be lucrative, Thom said. But
others with interests in archaeology or anthropology are motivated by a desire to understand the development of a culture through its art items and everyday implements. And others, Thom
said, are in it for the thrill of discovery. The FBI and its partners might have a daunting task determining the origins and provenance of all of the items, Thom predicted. "It may be 30 years —
or never — before they have it all cataloged."
The ARCA blog asked Virginia Curry, a retired FBI agent and a licensed private investigator, for additional perspective. Ms. Curry teaches art crime investigations with retired Scotland Yard
officer Dick Ellis:
The United States Federal Code Title 18 Section 668. defines a Museum as: (1) ‘‘museum’’ means an organized and permanent institution, the activities of which affect interstate or foreign
commerce, that— (A) is situated in the United States;(B) is established for an essentially educational or aesthetic purpose; (C) has a professional staff; and (D) owns, utilizes, and cares for
tangible objects that are exhibited to the public on a regular schedule. (2) ‘‘object of cultural heritage’’ means an object that is—(A) over 100 years old and worth in excess of $5,000; or (B)
worth at least $100,000.
One might argue that Donald Miller's collection, in a rural area of Indiana satisfies the federal definition of a museum. While the affidavit in support of the search warrant on this 91-year-old
man's home is not yet available on the Internet for review, it appears that there is no evidence that Mr. Miller is a physical threat or would cause harm to the artifacts he has so carefully
maintained and displayed to his neighbors on request (on request, by the way, is as regular a schedule as one might ask for in such a rural Indiana community). There does not appear, at
present, to be any indication that Mr. Miller is a danger to federal agents or that he would not have cooperated, if asked, in their investigation. Mr. Miller not only served his country on a highly
important project at Los Alamos, but he also continued his life of service as a missionary. The artifacts he collected into his "Wunderkammer" were not only collected during his travel, but
were also previously profiled in print media. Therefore, the "full corps press" (with an FBI Mobile Command Post) assault on this rural community appears to be extraordinary and an
unnecessary show of force by the FBI and any other participating federal agency. I wonder if they contemplated entry on the home of the 91-year-old man with an FBI SWAT team? Regarding
the suggestion that Miller’s collection was not maintained is "by museum standards" -- this is a qualification for accreditation of a museum by the AAM (American Association of Museums) and
not a standard under federal law for the definition of a museum collection. I suspect that Mr. Miller might have been persuaded before this event to work with the FBI, or any other agency, and
the same expertise the FBI will now have to employ to evaluate, inventory and collect this material in anticipation of an eventual legacy donation to another facility. Instead, this is an
embarrassing and unnecessary show of force by the FBI to a community that is likely experiencing their first contact with the FBI.
The ARCA blog asked Dr. Kathleen Whitaker, former director, Indian Arts Research Center, School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, to add a museum professional’s perspective to this story:
Virginia is right, there is no info forthcoming on why the FBI chose to assault this home with so much force. A search warrant has yet to be revealed. I personally find this descent on, and
intrusion into a private home a bit disconcerting. I guess the provocation is yet to be revealed, but the number of agents that descended on the site seems outrageously overdrawn. What did
they expect from this 91-year-old man? Cannons and oozies?
AAM standards that define what a museum should be, align somewhat with the federal code; and, of course there are many differences between the 'types’ of museums that are identified, goals,
purpose, adequate resources and public engagement - hence differences in the application of standards for each type of facility. AAM was not set up to enforce legal matters the federal code
was - so naturally there is a difference in intent. Mr. Miller's establishment aligns more with what AAM would define as an "art museum," although I am unsure what his tax status might
suggest in terms of operation. But yes, he is the owner-staff, he shares his collection with the public (assuming by appointment), and he maintains the artifacts through exhibition in glass
cases, etc., and provides identity labels for those items on display (according to visuals seen in news reports and video). It seems probable, however, he does not identify his establishment as a
" public museum" but rather as a private collection that he willingly shares with others. Legally then, his establishment does not seem to be functioning/operating under any tax or other
"code" or "law" (at least that I am, at this writing, aware of). It is unclear to me how old his artifacts REALLY are based on media hype, but a few professionals such as archaeologists,
anthropologists and the like have been "called in" to help identify the collection. One might summarily assume, there are both old and ethno- and historically important pieces among the
artifacts in this vast collection. All the specifics have yet to be determined. Whatever the outcome, such outrageous ideas that it could take "30 years" to catalogue all the material is just plain
FBI involvement (if based on the collection alone) suggests the problem could involve violations of NAGPRA [Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act], the Antiquity Act, The
Indigenous Religious Freedom Act, Fish and Wildlife "feather" violations on artifacts, et al. Or perhaps the suggestion of illegal acquisition or transport across state and perhaps even country
boundaries would mandate an FBI investigation - but not invasion! Usually collections of this magnitude are well known among professionals in the area, so I find surprising the local
university professor was "frankly overwhelmed" by the collection's magnitude. It might be embarrassing to the university if it admitted knowledge of the collection's contents and it turns out
there are violations. Finally, I have many more questions than answers. Primarily among them is: WHO informed the FBI? And WHY?
According to Frank Denzler reporting for the Rushville Republican: During his lifetime, Miller has traveled extensively throughout the world and is a known collector of Native American
artifacts – a collection that encompasses not only his residence, but also a number of outlying buildings on his rural property.
Journalist Teresa Mackin included a video of Miller's collection during her report on WISHTV published on the station's website.
Jill Disis and Chris Sikich in Indiana reported for the IndyStar:
In rural Rush County, few are the people who have not heard of the house on 850 West — and the tales of the man who resides within. Some have seen the spectacles that pack the home, from
the life-size Chinese terra-cotta figurine on the front porch to the seemingly authentic Egyptian sarcophagus in the basement. [...] But none of the stories friends and former colleagues shared
with The Indianapolis Star on Thursday came close to explaining the latest mystery surrounding 91-year-old Don Miller, brought on by a throng of FBI agents that surrounded his house
Tuesday.Why did they begin removing thousands of artifacts from Miller's home despite not charging him with a crime or placing him under arrest? And why, two days later, were they still
there? "It's odd. The whole situation is odd," said Elizabeth Dykes, an acquaintance of Miller's who lives in Richmond. "I about flipped my lid yesterday when I saw this. What could he of all
people have to hide?"
Paul Barford pointed out on his blog "Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues" that in an article authored by Andy Proffet in the Shelbynews on April 3, "FBI working with artifact
collector to return items" that according to an FBI agent "Miller had contacted the FBI about returning the items, but couldn't elaborate on why Miller was looking to repatriate the artifacts

International Art Market Spring 2015

1. NEW YORK, NY.- This Spring, vintage Moroccan rugs have been experiencing a surge in popularity: From fashion houses like Lanvin and Tory Burch, who referenced traditional Moroccan
weaving in their recent collections, to top interior designers like Markham Roberts and Tom Scheerer, who utilize the minimalist, contemporary look of Moroccan rugs in their clients homes,
today's most stylish professionals are drawing inspiration from this traditional African craft. More Information:

2.. LONDON Everyone likes a one man's trash is another man's treasure story.  But what can these stories tell us about collectors, collecting habits and the art market in antiquities in the 20th century in  the UK? In November 2014, the family of a deceased elderly woman, Doreen Liddell, hired the services of an estate sale company, Penzance Auction House to go through the painful disposal of
unwanted things us humans tend to accumulate over our lifetimes and that relatives frequently don't have the place for, or the emotional strength to actively sift through. More Information:

3.. GAZA CITY (AFP).- World-renowned graffiti artist Banksy has caused a stir in the Gaza Strip, apparently secretly travelling to the Palestinian territory and painting murals on buildings
ruined by the latest conflict. The artist, whose chooses to remain anonymous, released an online video entitled "Make this the year YOU discover a new destination", that purports to show him
travelling to Gaza by commercial flight and then through smuggling tunnels -- possibly underneath the Egyptian border. More Information:

4. MAASTRICHT, the Netherlands — With the background beat of The TEFAF Art Market Report 2015 announcing record global art sales of €51 billion, Europe’s fanciest art fair opened
Thursday with great expectations. Unlike most contemporary themed art fairs that rely on make or break sales in the first few hours of the V.I.P. opening, TEFAF (aka The European Fine Art
Fair) is a slow-brewing, 10-day-long event embracing categories from antiquities and jewelry to Old Master paintings and where “art sells at a snail’s pace,” said New York dealer Paul Kasmin,
“and usually at the end of the fair or even a week after.”  For the fair goer, you’re choosing one or the other.”with so much visual candy on offer, it is relatively difficult to make a big impression at TEFAF, though this iteration, the 27th, had a wow factor entry, with the curated display of Shaker
furniture at Paris based Galerie Downtown, brilliantly organized and installed as a mini Shaker Village home by Francois Laffanour and Philippe Segalot. The art dealers also collaborated with
the Shaker Museum in Mount Lebanon, New York, and had a handful of loaned works. Apart from those minimal and beautifully crafted primarily wood objects, the rest of the stand sold out or
had pieces placed on hold during the first few hours at relatively modest prices ranging from $10,000 for a rocking chair to $300,000 for a great, multi-drawer cupboard. More...

5. NEW YORK, NY.- The Madison Ancient and Tribal Arts Fair May 14th—17th at the Arader Galleries townhouse at 1016 Madison Avenue is a singular opportunity to shop distinguished
collections of the antique sculptural and figurative arts of Africa, Oceania and the ancient Americas.
Wood sculptures and carvings, fiber works, masks, beadwork, and body objects created by remote cultures for use in daily life, sport and ritual will be on view. The MATA Fair is a vetted show,
offering only authentic and museum quality items. Several of the dealers rarely show publicly, making the Fair unique.

6. CANBERRA.- The National Portrait Gallery unveiled an exciting new acquisition of irrefutable importance to all Australians. Portrait of William Bligh, in master’s uniform c. 1776, attributed
to John Webber, is one of the earliest portraits of the contentious, historical figure, and extends the Gallery’s remarkable collection of early colonial portraits. More Information:

7.The Stakes are in the Stroke: "Made in China: A Doug Fishbone Project"
In 1811 Sir John Soane drew up the blueprint for Dulwich Picture Gallery, Britain’s first public art gallery. That is, Sir Radical Soane drew up a template for how to house Francis Bourgeois’ first-class private collection: open its Bourgeois doors to the public. Two centuries on and the template—save for the ticket price—has not been tampered with. For where the conceptual artist, Doug Fishbone, today asks the public to discern the dud in the gallery’s Permanent Collection of Claude’s to Canaletto’s, its welcome mat is down. But a dud, mind you, that is meant to spark—spark intrigue, in anyone who has ever suspected that a Christmas gift was too-leather-good-to be-true. Intrigue in you, the sceptic. Spotting the fake from the fortune is not reserved for the BBC-coiffed-likes of Fiona Bruce as she uncovers, in the attic, ancestors with considerable assets. Spotting the fake from the fortune is as good a guess yours as it is theirs.

8. ABU DHABI - Why the Louvre Abu Dhabi is worth celebrating, despite its dark side. The accusations of migrant worker exploitation have marred Jean Nouvel’s architectural masterpiece in the Middle East. Nonetheless, it is a turning point in cultural history . The Louvre Abu Dhabi looks set to open in 2016, as work on Jean Nouvel’s colossal construction speeds up and his vision of a modern medina starts to crystallise on what was once a desert island. This vast project has been stupendously controversial. Bertolt Brecht’s question about a much earlier age of architectural grandeur leaves a bad taste in the mouth when applied to the Louvre Abu Dhabi: Who built Thebes of the 7 gates? In the books you will read the names of kings. Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock? The answer in this case, according to damning investigations, is that Abu Dhabi’s new cultural centre is being built by exploited and abused migrant workers. These workers, the Guardian reported recently, “are subject to destitution, summary arrest and deportation if they complain about their squalid and unsafe conditions, an investigation by Human Rights Watch has found.” Yet the question asked by Brecht has a converse. Seeing ancient monuments, we tend to forget the toil and suffering of the builders. Fifty years from now, when the Louvre Abu Dhabi has established itself as one of the world’s great museums, how clearly will its dark beginnings be remembered?
Nothing excuses the inhuman working conditions that have been reported. But I suspect that when it opens, this audacious new museum will be admired as a world destination and artistic treasure house. And so it should be. Great museums have traditionally been identified with Europe and the US. I am talking about the really grand ones, those living encyclopedias of everything. These include – as well as the Paris Louvre itself – New York’s Metropolitan Museum, London’s British Museum, St Petersburg’s Hermitage and Berlin’s Museum Island. To create a new global museum in the Arab world with an Arab perspective is a revolutionary subversion of the old European imperialism of knowledge. With any luck, this is the beginning of a global spread of great museums. The world needs a network of cultural oases on every continent, perhaps one day sharing all their collections. That would vindicate the democratic educational dream of the Enlightenment, from which the first world museums grew. It is right to be concerned about worker abuses. But it would be deeply destructive to refuse for that reason to celebrate an eye-opening new museum.

Bruno Claessens Spring 2015

I have picked a few of Bruno's recent blog entries that should give you an idea of  how interesting his view is on recent issues of interest in the ethnographic field. Many are intrigued by Sothebys efforts on Ebay. In my opinion Sothebys realizes that they have both reinvigorated and destroyed the African market with their recent marketing efforts. Yes the entire market is not just made up of the top 1 percent of objects available for sale. By refusing to sell only the top of the food chain the auction house must realize that they were leaving a lot of money on the table. Clearly the solution is online but is Ebay the answer? Finally Bruno's piece on Sothebys marketing of the Warua Master Luba figure should stir some juices among the art historians. Note in previous issues we have covered Amazon's effort to market art. I strongly recommend that you subscribe at

1. PARIS - Social MediaTalking about innovative curatorial practices: I just came across the above image taken at the newly opened Ivory Coast exhibition at the Musée du quai Branly Les Maïtres de la Sculpture de Côte d’Ivoire (info). Visitors are suggested to use the hashtag #sculpturecotedivoire to discover more about the exhibition on their favorite social media. Any avid user of Twitter or Instagram at once knows which hashtag to use when posting pictures of the exhibition online. The success of this idea becomes clear when searching on #sculpturecotedivoire on Twitter here or on
I’m happy to notice the Musée du quai Branly is letting people freely photograph the exhibition. I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures at the Sepik show in Berlin and photography isn’t allowed either at the Senufo exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art – although they did develop an app for smartphones. The launch of this app will definitely have increased the usage of smartphones by visitors, but they thus can’t use it at the same time for photographing interesting details or the exhibition installation.
In my experience the gallery assistants never really know why photographing isn’t allowed and what the main objections are*. The availability of postcard reproductions of the highlights at the museum shop is often claimed as an excuse – but those you can’t share online. It is of course a complex discussion. Taking photographs of everything of interest for most young people is a way to experience and enjoy art (and life). As long as it goes together with properly looking at objects (and is done quietly and considerably) I have no problem with that. Museum curators should realize that younger generations ‘consume’ art in a whole new way. Part of the fun now is to share your photos online with friends via social media. Establishing a hashtag, like the Musée du quai Branly did, is a clever way to actively encourage visitors to share images of the exhibition online – and those can only generate additional interest in the art on view.
*There’s of course the widespread belief that flash photography can damage an art object. As this paper shows it’s not more harmful than normal light exposure. Dr Martin Evans explains that the problem is even less of a concern for smartphones, which, no doubt, is how most museum visitors are taking photos (or selfies) these days. He writes:
Many ‘smartphones’ include an illuminator that may be a tiny xenon flash, or a light-emitting diode (LED) that briefly flashes light onto the subject. It is hard to estimate the power of these little illuminators in terms of strict guide numbers, but the consensus is that they can be rated at GN 2 to GN 4. Clearly, flashes from ‘smartphones’ cannot be regarded as a conservation threat in any properly lit gallery.
Anyhow, mobile phones take much better photos without a flash.
UPDATE: Kathryn Gunsch, Teel Curator of African and Oceanic Art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, was kind enough to share a curator’s perspective:
The ban on photography is rarely related to conservation concerns. It is about image rights. Not every lender will allow visitors to photograph the objects on loan to a show. Many museums that allow photography in the permanent collection cannot offer photography in the special exhibitions for this reason. I don’t know of any museum that has tried to allow photography in a special exhibition of some objects but not others -that would likely be an enforcement nightmare!- and so if even one lender declines photography, the whole show can’t be snapped. I hope that helps explain it. I know many of us wish it were otherwise, there’s nothing better than seeing gallery images on pinterest, instagram and elsewhere!
I wonder how many private lenders wouldn’t allow their objects to be photographed, and for what reasons. Maybe an easy solution would be to make the right to be photographed a condition to include an object in an exhibition in the loan contract. A reader also informed me that at the quai Branly’s exhibition visitors are not allowed to photogaph the objects that come from the Musée National de Côte d’Ivoire – there is a pictogram on the info label that states “NO PHOTO”. So it are not just the private lenders – also note that the Sepik exhibition (where photography also was prohibited) only had objects from public collections. Lastly, another reader wrote that photography wasn’t allowed at the previous stop at the Ivory Coast exhibition at the Rietberg Museum. Seems like, for now, each museum has its own approach.

2. NEW YORK - The results of Sotheby’s eBay adventure... As I reported here last week, Sotheby’s is now selling African art via eBay. Now that the auction is over, it’s time to have a look at the results. Several objects apparently were removed from eBay (the website states: This listing was ended by the seller because the item is no longer available) – either that or they were not sold.
*It’s interesting to note that during the second Allan Stone sale, this Makonde mask was passed; the last bid being $ 3,750. It was indeed overlooked during the sale itself and deserved a second chance.
The 3 objects from the Segy estate were not sold (a Bamana headdress, a Bamana mask, and a Fon staff). A Guro antelope mask and a Mossi container also remained unsold, while a Dan miniature mask made $ 2,000 and a Dan mask $ 6,500 (est. $7-8K). I thus wouldn’t call this sale a huge success. From the 15 objects, 7 were sold – (except from the Makonde mask) all under or around the low estimate, in total generating $ 24,850 (I guess without the buyer’s premium). I wonder if that $ 25K was worth the damage to their carefully created image of no. 1 auction house for African art?
I guess the decision was made higher than the individual departments in Sotheby’s corporate structure.
Among them the Songye kifwebe mask, Mambila figure, and a Dogon figure. Strangely enough the Allan Stone provenance is no longer listed. Five objects from his estate were sold: a great Makonde mask, estimated at $ 3-5K and starting at $ 1,500 (which was estimated $ 8-12K last year) was sold for $ 6,500*; a Chokwe (?) mask, estimated $ 6-9K (originally $ 15-25K here), sold for $ 4,800; an Akan head was sold for $ 1,800 (est. $ 2-3K); a second Makonde helmet mask sold for $ 2,400 (est. $ 3-5K); and a Sudanese throwing club sold for $ 850 (estimated $ 800-1,200).

Instagram here. #sculpturecotedivoire quai branly

3. NEW YORK The highlight of the next Sotheby’s sale obviously is the cover lot, a Luba statue from D.R. Congo, attributed to the so-called Warua Master (info). Fourteen (!) pages of the catalogue are dedicated to this lot – Myron Kunin’s Senufo statue got 18. Heinrich Schweizer’s catalogue note contains a very interesting paragraph about the “strong adherence to geometric principles” of the Warua Master. He writes:
The tangent connecting the upmost point of the eyebrows is a horizontal line dividing the face from the apex of the forehead to the chin into two exact halves (see the below drawing). While the upper half is plain, featuring only the forehead, the lower half is visually dense as it contains all facial features – the Warua Master uses the juxtaposition of visual void and density to create tension. Furthermore, the face is inscribed into a perfect ellipse of vertical orientation. The upper half of the ellipse follows exactly the outline of the forehead from its apex to about the line dividing the face into upper and lower half. In the lower half the outline of the face withdraws subtly to the inside. However, it is the lowest point of the beard that falls with mathematical precision onto the nadir of the ellipse. Inside the face, eyebrows and jawbones create two nearly elliptical shapes of horizontal position which follow the same length and width ratio as the vertical ellipse into which the face is inscribed. 
Luba figure Warua Master Golden ratio Congo drawing b
Schweizer continues (and here it gets really interesting):
In light of these strong inherent tensions it is surprising that the face overall exudes so much tranquility and serenity. How does the artist do this? The answer has to do with the position of the eyes and is mesmerizingly mathematical (see below drawing): inscribed in the two smaller, horizontally positioned quasi-ellipses are laterally wide and medially narrow eyes. The virtual horizontal line connecting their inner corners of these eyes (i.e., running right through their middle) bisects the length of the face such that the distance from this line to the bottom of the neck is equal to the distance from this line to the top of the forehead, is equal to the distance between the outer points of the two horizontal quasi-ellipses. We may define this distance as b.
However, it is the relation of the lowest point of the beard to the virtual line connecting the eyes that renders the composition in such “perfect balance”. We may define this distance as a. As shown, a and b are measures relating the apex and nadir of the vertical ellipse defining the face to the virtual line connecting the eyes.
The ratio of the distances measured by a and b corresponds to a formula which is well-known in aesthetic studies and art history as the golden ratio of proportion. It has been observed in ancient Egyptian sculpture, Greek architecture, early medieval painting and was propagated widely during the Italian Renaissance, most famously in Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man (1492) as manifestation of the divine spark visible in the greatest masterpieces of creation. This ideal proportion is mathematically defined by an irrational number that is approximately 1.618 and most often replaced by the Greek letter Φ.
As the drawings and the above show, a number of the aesthetic choices made by the Warua Master follow the golden ratio with an uncanny mathematical precision – although we don’t know whether this is a result of intuition or calculation.
Luba figure Warua Master Golden ratio Congo drawing

To my knowledge (and do correct me if I’m wrong*), this is the first time the golden ratio has been applied in the analysis of an African art object. I’m confident that once you start looking you can find it in a lot of other objects too. For example, have a look at this Mende mask in the same catalogue. It is possible to see the golden ratio in anything, really. While the relation between the golden ratio and aesthetics remains highly debated in academic circles (for example here), this analysis certainly helps to better understand and appreciate the beauty of this Luba figure, or African art in general.
*UPDATE: a reader informed me about Jean-Pierre Fournier’s analysis of an Akan comb (“Le peigne ashanti et ses mystères”), published Arts d’Afrique Noire” in 1985 (no. 56, pp. 11-14), where Fournier applies the section dorée and rectangle d’or to a comb from his collection.
la section dorée le rectangle d’or fournier comb Akan
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Art World Goings and Comings Spring 2015

Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum has a new chief curator in Bart van der Heide, director of the Kunstverein Munich, who replaces Nicole Delissen (see Bart van der Heide Named Chief Curator at Stedelijk Museum).

Kristina Van Dyke, director of St. Louis's Pulitzer Arts Foundation since 2011, will step down in May, just in time for the foundation's unveiling of 3,600 square feet of new galleries, which will more than double its current exhibition space (see Hate Your Job? Pulitzer Foundation Seeks Director). Van Dyke is leaving to work on a book, but will continue work on fall show of African art at the Pulitzer among other curatorial projects.

Los Angeles's Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) has appointed Lanka Tattersall as its new assistant curator. Tattersall joins MOCA after a stint as curatorial assistant at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (see MOCA LA Welcomes New Assistant Curator).

Tom Lentz, director of the recently renovated Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will soon step down in July after over a decade on the job (see Harvard Art Museums Director Tom Lentz to Step Down and Ai Weiwei's "258 Fakes" Greets Visitors to Harvard Art Museums).

The Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University has appointed Caitlin Doherty, the exhibitions and speaker curator at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, as curator.

Lisa Bruno will join the ranks of the Brooklyn Museum Conservation Laboratory as chief conservator. Prior to accepting this position, Bruno was an adjunct professor at the NYU Institute of Fine Arts and at Pratt University.

The Nassau Country Museum of Art in Roslyn, New York, has hired Angela Susan Anton, publisher of Anton Community Newspapers, as its new president. Anton replaces Clarence F. Michalis, who will become executive vice president.

Penny Liu. Editor in Chief artnet News China.

Penny Liu, a Beijing-based journalist and former chief editor of Harper's Bazaar Art China, has been named editor-in-chief of artnet News China (see Penny Liu Appointed Editor in Chief of artnet News China). The artnet News counterpart will launch this month, delivering original Chinese language content.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona, has appointed Aaron Betsky as the new dean of its architecture school. Formerly director of the Cincinnati Art Museum, Betsky succeeds Victor Sidy, dean since 2005.

David Breslin, a curator at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, has been appointed chief curator of the Menil Drawing Institute in Houston, Texas.

Ballroom Marfa, Texas's contemporary art haven, has named Laura Copelin associate curator (see Laura Copelin Appointed Associate Curator at Ballroom Marfa). Copelin arrives at Marfa after four years at the Santa Monica Museum of Art in California. The post was previously held by Erin Kimmel.

Illham Abdel Rahman, head of restoration at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, has been moved to the Royal Coaches Museum in Bulaq after the Tutankhamun repair fiasco (see King Tut Restorer Transferred, Mask Can Be Fixed  and King Tut Damaged in Botched Repair Attempt).

The Rockwell Museum in Corning, New York, has announced that Kirsty Buchanan, a Dallas-based fine arts management professional, has joined the team as curator of collections.

Ellen Keiter, the director of exhibitions at New York's Katonah Museum of Art for the last 13 years, has been named chief curator of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. Keiter replaces H. Nicholas B. Clark, who served as the museum's founding director and chief curator until this December, and will continue at the museum in an emeritus role as lecturer and guest curator.

Tate Publishing has announced that Jacky Klein will begin her role as executive editor this month. Klein comes to Tate from Phaidon Press, where she was commissioning editor.

Trevor Schoonmaker, chief curator of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in North Carolina, been appointed artistic director for the fourth edition of Prospect New Orleans, most recently headed by Franklin Sirmans (see Nasher Curator Trevor Schoonmaker Appointed Artistic Director of Prospect.4).

The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, has named Katherine Jentleson as its new curator of folk and self-taught art, filling the vacancy left by longtime curator Susan Mitchell Crawley's 2013 departure.

Dominique H. Vasseur, the chief curator of the Columbus Museum of Art (CMA) in Ohio, has retired after 10 years on the job. She will be succeeded by David Stark, the director of administration for museum education at the Art Institute in Chicago. The museum has also hired Drew Sawyer, a curatorial fellow at New York's Museum of Modern Art and Ph.D. student at Columbia University, as associate curator of photography, and promoted curator-at-large Ann Dumas to adjunct curator of European art.

The Mexican Museum in San Francisco has appointed Cayetana S. Gomez as president and chief executive officer. Previously, Gomez served as director of fundraising and public relations at the Museo de Memoria y Tolerancia in Mexico City.

Linda Wolk-Simon, a veteran curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art,  has been named director and chief curator of Fairfield University's Bellarmine Museum of Art in Connecticut.

Georgia's Albany Museum of Art has tapped Barbi Fisher as its new director of education and public programming. Fisher previously worked 31 years in the state's Dougherty County School System, where she was most recently art supervisor.

Alice Thorson, art critic for the Kansas City Star since 1991, was let go last week after the newspaper made major cutbacks on arts coverage. Her position had already been reduced to part-time hours in 2009.

 BLOOMINGTON, IND.- Following a national search, David A. Brenneman, director of collections and exhibitions at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, has been appointed director of the Indiana University Art Museum. IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel made the official announcement today.
Brenneman, who will begin as director July 1, brings more than 20 years of experience in the art museum field and almost 13 years as a senior administrator at the High. He received his Ph.D. in art history from Brown University and also graduated from the Getty Museum Leadership Institute in 2004. He received the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government in 2008; previous and subsequent recipients of the award, established in 1957, have included such American arts luminaries as T.S. Eliot, Bob Dylan, Meryl Streep and Patti Smith.

Heard on the Street Spring 2015

1. MANALAPAN - A sprawling oceanfront Florida compound owned by the Ziff family is asking just under $200 million, according to people familiar with the property, making it one of the highest priced listings in the country. Located on a barrier island in Manalapan, just south of Palm Beach, the nearly 16-acre property known as “Gemini” spans the width of the barrier island, with roughly 1,200 feet of frontage on the Atlantic Ocean and about 1,300 feet on the Intracoastal Waterway. It was purchased by the Ziffs in the 1980s, according to Carmen D’Angelo, Jr. of Premier Estate Properties, an exclusive affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate, who confirmed he is the property’s co-listing agent. Christie’s is marketing the property internationally.
Built in the 1940s, the coral stone-clad main house has been reconstructed and measures about 62,200 square feet, said Mr. D’Angelo. The oceanfront house is connected to guest quarters known as the Ficus Wing, which sits on the Intracoastal, by a tunnel that runs underneath the road bisecting the property. The tunnel is air-conditioned and furnished as a living room, with a fireplace and skylights, according to Rick Moeser, senior vice president and regional manager of Christie’s.

2. NEW YORK If you have your eye on a piece of fine art, don’t be surprised if you have to do more than just write a check to purchase it: The gallery offering the piece may also want you to agree in writing not to resell the work at auction—or even to another collector—without getting their permission first.
Adding conditions and restrictions to sales agreements is becoming an increasingly common practice in the art world as dealers, worried that an overheated art-auction market is distorting prices, look to maintain control over who buys the works of the artists they represent. “There is a lot of fear that art buyers aren’t really collectors but are just looking to flip works,” says lawyer Judd Grossman, who has represented artists, collectors and galleries as part of his New York practice. Reports both of record high prices and works finding no buyers at auction have proved disruptive to gallery owners, which is why many seek to retain the right to resell pieces originally bought from them. New York
gallery owner Andrea Rosen says, “I have used these clauses on every invoice since I opened ” in 1990. Of course, it’s hard to blame buyers for wanting to realize the profits being generated by the frothy art-auction market. For example, Deborah Butterfield’s bronze, wood and scrap-metal sculptures of horses have consistently done well at auction, twice fetching highs of $229,000, far exceeding presale estimates of $100,000 to $150,000 at Christie’s and Sotheby’s.  Yet if you want to buy one of her works at the New York gallery that represents her, you’ll have to sign a contract giving the gallery first dibs on reselling it.
According to Renato Danese, co-owner of the Danese/Corey gallery where Ms. Butterfield’s sculptures are sold, the demand is aimed at protecting both the artist and the collectors who buy her works.
“I don’t want to see my clients gambling at auction,” says Mr. Danese. “What if the work doesn’t sell, or sells below the low estimate? That will hurt the artist in terms of current and future sales, and it will hurt my clients. They will ask me, ‘Why did you sell me something that wasn’t worth as much as I paid?’ And if the work sells for a very high price at auction, that also disrupts the market because other collectors will then think that prices for every work by the artist should be much higher.
What’s the motive?
Not everyone is buying that explanation, however, and some “collectors complain that gallery control is chiefly for their own benefit,” says New York art lawyer John Cahill. They believe galleries care more about getting another commission than they do about helping artists, he says.
In some cases, though, it’s the artists themselves who seek to attach conditions to sales.
The estate of artist Sol LeWitt, for example, has demanded that collectors who buy his works agree to seek its permission before selling to new owners, his former business and studio manager, Susannah Singer, says. Another artist, Hans Haacke, asks buyers to sign a contract agreeing to pay him a royalty of 15% whenever they sell his work for a profit on the secondary market. And if buyers exhibit his work in “a public venue, I want a say in the circumstances,” he says. The reason, according to Mr. Haacke, is that he wouldn’t want his work associated with “corporations I object to.”
The degree to which restrictions and conditions are enforceable in court depends on the language of the sales agreement, lawyers say, adding that some galleries may be willing to negotiate.
For example, you might “say that you will only agree to sell the work back to the gallery, rather than to consign it,” Mr. Cahill, the New York art lawyer, says. Or, you could offer to give the gallery 30 days to buy the piece back from you, but maintain the right to go to auction if you don’t like the price, he says.
Power struggle
But the threat of a lawsuit may not be the most important element in keeping buyers in line.
Collectors who violate sales agreements may have a tough time working with those same galleries or artists in the future.
New York art lawyer Susan Duke Biederman says restrictions and conditions are part of “a quid-pro-quo in a larger relationship between dealer and collector. Dealers want to sell to certain collectors, and collectors want to buy what certain dealers are selling. The main issue is who has the most leverage in that relationship.”

3. NEW YORK When you buy a piece of art, can you be sure it’s really yours? Many collectors don’t always feel certain on that score. They worry in some cases that after they make a purchase someone will show up, maybe years later, and claim the art was stolen at some point in the past—ultimately leaving the new owner empty-handed, without the art or the money paid for it.
That’s one reason many art advisers and lawyers recommend title insurance, which can at least partially protect a collector’s financial interests if a piece of art has to be surrendered. But theft isn’t the only issue. Title insurance also can help protect collectors if the person they bought art from becomes entangled in divorce, bankruptcy, probate or other legal proceedings that question the seller’s right to dispose of the art.
Some advisers say title insurance is particularly important because of the sharp increase in the prices of many artworks in recent years—buyers have more to lose. But title insurance has been a hard sell.
William Fleischer, president of insurance brokerage firm Bernard Fleischer & Sons Inc., says most collectors are willing to forgo the cost, in part because many already have paid advisers and lawyers to check on the authenticity and history of ownership of their art, and they have confidence in those experts.
For those who want additional reassurance, some insurance companies offer “defense of title” coverage, which typically pays up to $100,000 in legal costs in the event of a title dispute but doesn’t reimburse policyholders for the value of any objects taken away from them.
The leading provider of more-complete coverage is New York-based ARIS Title Insurance Corp., a unit of Argo Group International Holdings Ltd.  It offers policies that cover legal costs in the event of a title dispute and the full purchase price of the piece if the buyer has to surrender the work. Collectors pay a one-time premium averaging 2% to 3% of the purchase price of the item being insured. They can increase coverage, for an additional premium, if the artwork’s value appreciates.

4. TECHNOLOGY  You walk into your shower and see a spider. You don’t know whether it is venomous—or whether it is even a real spider. It could be a personal surveillance mini-drone set loose by your nosy next-door neighbor, who may be monitoring the tiny octopod robot from her iPhone 12. A more menacing possibility: Your business competitor has sent a robotic attack spider, bought from a bankrupt military contractor, to take you out. Your assassin, who is vacationing in Provence, will direct the spider to shoot an infinitesimal needle containing a lethal dose of poison into your left leg—and then self-destruct.
Meanwhile, across town, an anarchist molecular-biology graduate student is secretly working to re-create the smallpox virus, using ordinary laboratory tools and gene-splicing equipment available online. Not content to merely revive an extinct virus to which the general population has no immunity, he uses public-source academic research to make it more lethal. Then he infects himself and, just as his symptoms start, strolls around the airport to infect as many people as he can.
These scenarios may sound fantastical, but they are neither especially improbable nor particularly futuristic. Insect-size drones are busily being developed throughout the defense establishment, in academic facilities and by private firms. Slightly larger drones are widely available for purchase on the open market, some already rigged with cameras. Making such drones lethal is just the next step, and it isn’t that complicated.
As for our anarchist molecular biologist, the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity said back in 2006 that the “technology for synthesizing DNA is readily accessible, straightforward and a fundamental tool used in current biological research.” That was a lifetime ago in scientific terms.
The technological platforms associated with robotics, genetics and synthetic biology are enriching every facet of our society. But as President Barack Obama recently lamented about cybersecurity, “one of the great paradoxes of our time” is that “the very technologies that empower us to do great good can also be used to undermine us and inflict great harm.”