Spain

Spanish artist faces authorship lawsuit

The artist Antonio de Felipe, arguably Spain’s most established contemporary Pop artist, is facing one of the most challenging moments of his career: Fumiko Negishi, a Japanese artist based in Spain, has launched a lawsuit claiming she has painted 221 canvases signed by De Felipe.

Negishi said she worked at De Felipe’s Madrid studio for over 10 years, from 2006 until this past February, when she received a letter of dismissal citing financial reasons. Upon her dismissal, she felt that the artist did not respect her work or had any sympathy towards her situation, so she decided to tell her story.

She is not only telling her story to the Spanish media, but also to a judge. In the lawsuit, she demands that de Felipe “admits the truthful facts regarding the authorship of the paintings” and tells collectors and institutions that have purchased said works that Negishi is their author, or at least co-author.

She also demands that de Felipe rectify statements he made in media outlets claiming to be the sole author of his works, with no mention of Negishi’s contributions.

Meanwhile, de Felipe deny the claims: “[Negishi] has intervened in some areas of my paintings, but the intellectual authorship of the works is mine. Fumiko has not contributed anything to them,” De Felipe said, accusing Negishi of being disloyal and adding that she’s only “a studio assistant, like all artists have.”

Negishi, meanwhile, claims she executed the 221 paintings from scratch, based on sketches De Felipe had given to her. Negishi adds that those sketches were done by Photoshop, not by the artist’s hand, and that on occasions not even a sketch was provided as a starting point, only a photograph or an idea. Except for the original sketches, and adding his signature to the finished works, “De Felipe did not touch those paintings,” Negishi states.

Negishi’s current lawsuit doesn’t include a monetary compensation, but could be followed up with a subsequent legal process where it would be demanded.

Prado opens landmark Bosch exhibition amid attribution controversy

Bosch fever is now moving on to Madrid, where the most comprehensive exhibition ever held on the Dutch master opens today (31 May). Twenty-four works by Hieronymus Bosch are on display—seven more than were at the Noordbrabants Museum in s’Hertogenbosch earlier this year. Probably never again will so many of his paintings be brought together.

However, part of the difference between the Bosch numbers at the Noordbrabants and the Prado is because of attributional questions. Dutch researchers demoted four works, all Spanish-owned pictures. The Noordbrabants team numbered the Spanish works as 24 (of which they got 17). The Prado specialists regard the total of fully-attributed works as 27 (of which they got 24). 

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.

Spanish police make arrests over stolen Francis Bacon works

Seven people have been arrested in Spain on suspicion of involvement in the theft of five paintings by Francis Bacon, worth a total of £19m.

The paintings were stolen last July, along with other valuables belonging to the owner, who is reported to have been a close friend of Bacon. The works, which comprise portraits and landscapes, are yet to be recovered.

Detectives said they were approached in February by British private investigators specialising in the recovery of stolen artworks who had received an email with photographs of the paintings and asking whether they were listed as stolen. Investigators analysed the photo and were able to determine that the camera that took the images was owned by a photographic equipment rental company, which supplied details of the customer who had rented it at the time the paintings were photographed.

The customer, who is suspected of involvement in the crime, was among those arrested, along with a Madrid art dealer and his son.

Robadas cinco obras de Francis Bacon en pleno centro de Madrid

Five paintings by Francis Bacon have been stolen from the private residence in Madrid of J. C. B., a Spanish friend of the legendary painter who inherited the artworks when Bacon died, in 1992. The five paintings have a combined worth of £23 million. According to El País, it’s the biggest contemporary art heist to have taken place in Spain in the last few decades.

The theft occurred in June 2015, when J. C. B. left his residence in the Plaza de la Encarnacion—an affluent area in the center of Madrid, near the Senate and the Royal Palace—for a few hours.

The heist has only been made public now for unspecified reasons, but an investigation has been unfolding ever since on both a national and international level, El País reports. The artworks, which are said to be of medium to small size, haven’t been found yet, but it is believed that they are still on Spanish soil.