NewYork

Spanish court rules not to extradite suspect in art fraud

A Spanish court has ruled that one of two brothers charged with perpetrating an art swindle valued at US$33 million should not be extradited for trial in the United States.

Spain’s National Court cited health reasons for deciding to halt the extradition of Jose Bergantinos Diaz, 60, who was arrested in April 2014 on a warrant issued by a New York district court. He is wanted, along with his brother Jesus Bergantinos Diaz, for passing-off fake art as the work of renowned painters such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. The court has already ruled that Jesus Bergantinos Diaz can be extradited.

The Bergantinos Diaz brothers are charged in the U.S. alongside Pei Shen Qian, the Chinese artist who allegedly painted the works in New York then fled to China.

Picasso vase worth US$30K stolen from art gallery

An Owl vase made by Pablo Picasso was swiped from a Manhattan gallery, police said Tuesday. The 10-inch ceramic piece is estimated to be worth about US$30,000. Chelsea’s ACA Gallery noticed that it was gone May 10, but a police report wasn’t filed until Monday.

The $80 Million Art Con

When one of the oldest and most respected art galleries in America, the Knoedler Gallery in New York, closed its doors abruptly in 2011, the art world was stunned. Not because the gallery closed, but by the discovery that over the course of 15 years, the gallery and its president, Ann Freedman, had sold millions of dollars in forgeries to wealthy collectors.

Major German Expressionist painting finds its way home to VMFA

Last November, the Wall Street Journal broke a story about a German Expressionist art work restituted at MOMA in New York that had been entangled in a 10-year-legal battle to return the work to its rightful owner, the Ludwig and Rosy Fischer Collection. That family has gifted the majority of its art collection here at the VFMA. And after some legal assistance from the VMFA, this new “gift-purchase” has now come home.

The painting, Sand Hills in Grünau by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, is currently on display at the museum. Not surprisingly, it has a long and eventful history.

Here's why this small painting costs $20 million

This month, New York will once again host a “gigaweek” of postwar, impressionist, modern, and contemporary art auctions, where hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of paintings and sculptures will sell every night for five days in a row.

The current narrative sending jitters through the art world is that the market, especially at the high end, is experiencing “a correction,” which is a polite way of saying that wildly expensive paintings are becoming slightly less so. Still, the evening auctions have more than enough multimillion-dollar, museum-quality artworks that will (if they sell) quiet naysayers—at least for now.

When you're so rich you don't notice your Picasso is missing

Billionaire socialite Wilma “Billie” Tisch is suing a Florida gallery owner for trying to sell a US$1 million Picasso that was stolen from her Manhattan home — sometime after December 2009, according to court papers.

Tisch, 88, only recently discovered the 1928 portrait of the famed painter’s mistress, Marie-Therese Walter, was missing.

The rise of fakes and false attributions in the art world

Pablo Picasso famously once said, “We all know that art is not the truth.”

With the recent conclusion of the first lawsuit filed against the now defunct, Knoedler Gallery of New York, for selling forgeries, the art world has been abuzz with stories of high-end fakes and the grave issue of false attributions. However, it is a universally established fact that forgeries are not a recent phenomenon but in fact have only grown in prevelance over the last four centuries.

Currently, the FBI estimates that art theft, fraud, looting, and trafficking across state and international lines are a “looming criminal enterprise with estimated losses running as high as $6 billion annually.”

Former director of scandal-beset Knoedler Gallery breaks her silence

In 2009, two years before news of the Knoedler Gallery’s US$70m sale of fake Abstract Expressionist paintings began to emerge, Ann Freedman resigned as director. Two years later, the venerable gallery closed down and the lawsuits against Knoedler and Freedman began to flood in. Five settled. The first to reach trial, brought by the collectors Domenico and Eleanore De Sole, also settled its claims against Freedman on 7 February (and against Knoedler shortly afterwards), just before she was set to take the stand in the New York courtroom. Her testimony had been eagerly anticipated, not least because she has never given her view of the unfolding scandal and her involvement in it. Until now.

Speaking to The Art Newspaper in an exclusive interview, her first in several years, she summed up the situation thus: “There has been a lot of misunderstanding.” We spoke to her in her sun-filled gallery on the Upper East side, FreedmanArt, which she opened in 2011. “Looking back, there can be things I didn’t see at the time… Could I have done some things differently? Not a day goes by that I don’t think about it. I don’t have an answer sitting here. I will at some point probably.”

Mossack Fonseca's role in fight over painting stolen by Nazis

Mossack Fonseca helped a New York art gallery defend itself over a claim about a Nazi-looted artwork after the apparent original owner’s descendant launched a legal battle for its return, the Panama Papers reveal.

The case involves a £18m Modigliani painting taken from Paris when the Germans marched into the city in 1940 and the role played by Mossack Fonseca, as the family who say it is theirs fought for its return.

The artwork in question is the 1918 Seated Man With a Cane, and the story of its theft and reemergence blends the injustice of treasures taken during the second world war with the smoke and mirrors of 21st-century offshore tax havens.

The descendant claims the painting was owned by Oscar Stettiner, a Jewish gallery owner in Paris who fled weeks before the Nazis entered the city. He managed to get his wife and children to the Dordogne but had to leave his collection behind.

Blind, 90-year-old son of Holocaust victims sues to find his family’s art

David Toren, the 90-year-old blind son of Holocaust victims, is suing the Berlin auction house Villa Grisebach in the US to track down paintings from his family’s art collection that were sold there in the past 20 years. One of those paintings was consigned by the daughter of Hildebrand Gurlitt, a dealer who worked with the Nazi regime.

Toren is a retired lawyer in New York whose entire family was killed in Poland, during the Second World War. A young David—then named Klaus Günther Tarnowski—escaped with his brother on a Kindertransport to Sweden in August 1939.

Are Donald Trump's art treasures fakes?

While he brags about their eight-figure valuations, “friends” of Republican presidential frontrunner Donald J. Trump are whispering about the French Impressionist paintings he sports in his home and on his plane may be fake.

Which is funny, because Trump himself told a friend that he “finds the New York arts crowd phony and elitist,“ according to the New York Post, which has blown the whistle on the Donald’s supposedly invaluable collection.

Sotheby's defends suit over a Motherwell

In a lawsuit that can only be described as highly unusual, Irish art dealer Oliver Sears has sued Sotheby’s auction house in US District Court, Southern District of New York, over a purported Robert Motherwell painting consigned for auction this past fall that was withdrawn before the November sale, since it was believed to be a fake.

The case as laid out in the legal complaint is not entirely clear and often very confusing. But it appears that what Sears saw featured in the Sotheby’s catalogue titled Brushy Elegy, and dated 1979—a work he owns and has physical possession of in his native country of Ireland—was likely a copy. Sears’ attorney says he was alarmed not only by the fact of seeing what he believed was his painting for sale, but also by the far lower estimate of what he says his authentic Motherwell is worth.

Japanese dealer arrested for offering stolen antiquity in New York

A second-century sculpture called Footprints of Buddha, set to be shown in New York by Japanese antiquities dealer Tatsuzo Kaku, was allegedly stolen in 1989, according to authorities. Kaku was arrested on March 14 at the Mark Hotel on East 77th Street for smuggling in the US$1.1 million relic.

Kaku runs antiquitues dealer Taiyo Ltd. in Tokyo and had agreed to ship the 440-pound Buddhapada sculpture to New York, said law enforcement sources.

Another object from Asia Week sales seized by federal agents

On Tuesday, 15 March, agents from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations and officers from Customs and Border Protection seized a second-century Gandharan Bodhisattva schist head en route to an unidentified “East Coast auction house” that was due to sell the artefact in New York.

According to a statement released by investigators: “With Asia Week in New York beginning Tuesday, [customs officials] have been on the lookout for shipments coming in from shippers and sources that might be trying to exploit our border controls. This shipment contained some of the red flags authorities look for. It had multiple false statements and it is anticipated that the parties involved will be further investigated.”