Showing posts with label Modigliani. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Modigliani. Show all posts

September 30, 2016

May 15, 1975 - Museum Theft, Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Milan


On the evening of February 17, 1975, twenty-eight Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works of art were stolen from the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Milan.  In total works of art by Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Paul Cezanne, Auguste Renoir, Amedeo Modigliani, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, the 16th century Flemish master Adrien Van Utrecht, Francoise Millet, Giovanni Fatter, Telemaco Signorini, and Giovanni Segatini were stolen.  The theft occurred despite the presence of watchmen on the premises, who were assigned to regularly patrol the museum and in theory who were required to make ten rounds of the exhibition spaces during each shift.  

To accomplish their crime criminals broke into the museum through an unalarmed first floor window.  They then mounted three flights of stairs and once in the upper Grassi Gallery proceeded to cut the artworks free of their frames, leaving them in a horrifying discarded heap. 

Van Gogh watercolour Breton Women (after Emile Bernard)
also known as Les bretonnes et le pardon de pont Aven
stolen from the Galleria d’Arte Moderna.
Stolen February 17, 1975 Recovered April 6, 1975
Stolen May 15, 1975 Recovered November 3, 1975
While no details of any arrests were announced in connection to the theft it is understood that the thieves may have demanded a hefty ransom and that this demand was most likely met. 

The works of art were conveniently recovered together on April 6, 1975, in an unoccupied sixth‐floor Milan apartment which had been registered to an alias. That apartment was later traced to Giuseppe Pennestri, an individual from Reggio Calabria living in Milan.   At the time the artworks were recovered, and given their good condition the artworks were valued by newspapers at USD $5 million.

While the Galleria d'Arte Moderna got its collection returned, by giving in and paying a thief's ransom, they encouraged further robberies.   Just three months later, on May 15, 1975, thieves struck the museum for a second time.

As if to add insult to injury, the second theft made use of the same security vulnerabilities.  Thieves entered the museum via the exact same avenue taken earlier, as if the first theft was a dress rehearsal for the second grand performance.

To break into the museum they came in over the high wall around the museum and then penetrated the building by climbing a ladder and entering through an upper floor window which had not been fitted with a burglar alarm. 

Once inside they reportedly overpowered four night watchmen.  Two were bound and gagged while making rounds and two were subsequently subdued in the Grassi Gallery where the criminals again made off with a substantial cache of paintings.

This time, even more Impressionist and Postimpressionist works of art were stolen, 38 in total. Many of the artworks stolen, including Van Gogh's watercolour Breton Women (after Emile Bernard), were the same ones taken during the previous robbery.

Perhaps because the thieves were banking on a ransom having already been paid?

One month later, on June 17, 1975, police got a break.  During an routine traffic stop, Giuseppe Pennestri was arrested by Italian authorities while driving a Mercedes with New Zealand license plates under an assumed name.  With him was a Yugoslavian also travelling with false identity papers.

Pennestri would turn out to be a truly unsavoury character, with a record that included not only masterminding the theft of the museum, possibly on both occasions, but also a rap sheet that included homicide, drug dealing, facilitating prostitution and apparent ties to organized crime

Following a joint investigation involving Interpol and the Italian and West German authorities 26 of the 38 artworks stolen were recovered on November 2, 1975. 

Italian law enforcement officials arrested one suspect in Foligno while their counterparts in Germany arrested three individuals in Duisburg, what was then West Germany.  Fifteen of the paintings were found in Italy during a raid on an apartment owned by a wealthy businessman, Settimio Bianchi. Eleven other artworks, including the works by Van Gogh and Renoir, were recovered in West Germany along with nine other stolen artworks from the Galleria d'Arte Moderna.

By Lynda Albertson

February 17, 1975 - Museum Theft, Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Milan


On the evening of February 17, 1975, twenty-eight Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works of art were stolen from the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Milan.  In total works of art by Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Paul Cezanne, Auguste Renoir, Amedeo Modigliani, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, the 16th century Flemish master Adrien Van Utrecht, Francoise Millet, Giovanni Fatter, Telemaco Signorini, and Giovanni Segatini were stolen.  The theft occurred despite the presence of watchmen on the premises, who were assigned to regularly patrol the museum and in theory who were required to make ten rounds of the exhibition spaces during each shift.  

To accomplish their crime criminals broke into the museum through an unalarmed first floor window.  They then mounted three flights of stairs and once in the upper Grassi Gallery proceeded to cut the artworks free of their frames, leaving them in a horrifying discarded heap. 

Van Gogh watercolour Breton Women (after Emile Bernard)
also known as Les bretonnes et le pardon de pont Aven
stolen from the Galleria d’Arte Moderna.
Stolen February 17, 1975 Recovered April 6, 1975
Stolen May 15, 1975 Recovered November 3, 1975
While no details of any arrests were announced in connection to the theft it is understood that the thieves may have demanded a hefty ransom and that this demand was most likely met. 

The works of art were conveniently recovered together on April 6, 1975, in an unoccupied sixth‐floor Milan apartment which had been registered to an alias. That apartment was later traced to Giuseppe Pennestri, an individual from Reggio Calabria living in Milan.   At the time the artworks were recovered, and given their good condition the artworks were valued by newspapers at USD $5 million.

While the Galleria d'Arte Moderna got its collection returned, by giving in and paying a thief's ransom, they encouraged further robberies.   Just three months later, on May 15, 1975, thieves struck the museum for a second time.

As if to add insult to injury, the second theft made use of the same security vulnerabilities.  Thieves entered the museum via the exact same avenue taken earlier, as if the first theft was a dress rehearsal for the second grand performance.

To break into the museum they came in over the high wall around the museum and then penetrated the building by climbing a ladder and entering through an upper floor window which had not been fitted with a burglar alarm. 

Once inside they reportedly overpowered four night watchmen.  Two were bound and gagged while making rounds and two were subsequently subdued in the Grassi Gallery where the criminals again made off with a substantial cache of paintings.

This time, even more Impressionist and Postimpressionist works of art were stolen, 38 in total. Many of the artworks stolen, including Van Gogh's watercolour Breton Women (after Emile Bernard), were the same ones taken during the previous robbery.

Perhaps because the thieves were banking on a ransom having already been paid?

One month later, on June 17, 1975, police got a break.  During an routine traffic stop, Giuseppe Pennestri was arrested by Italian authorities while driving a Mercedes with New Zealand license plates under an assumed name.  With him was a Yugoslavian also travelling with false identity papers.

Pennestri would turn out to be a truly unsavoury character, with a record that included not only masterminding the theft of the museum, possibly on both occasions, but also a rap sheet that included homicide, drug dealing, facilitating prostitution and apparent ties to organized crime

Following a joint investigation involving Interpol and the Italian and West German authorities 26 of the 38 artworks stolen were recovered on November 2, 1975. 

Italian law enforcement officials arrested one suspect in Foligno while their counterparts in Germany arrested three individuals in Duisburg, what was then West Germany.  Fifteen of the paintings were found in Italy during a raid on an apartment owned by a wealthy businessman, Settimio Bianchi. Eleven other artworks, including the works by Van Gogh and Renoir, were recovered in West Germany along with nine other stolen artworks from the Galleria d'Arte Moderna.

By Lynda Albertson

April 16, 2016

Hidden Ownership - the Panama Papers

By;  A.M.C. Knutsson

In recent days numerous articles have been released outlining the role of art in the Panama Papers. (For an outline of the nature of the Panama Papers click here.) Based on these leaked files, journalists have mapped how art has figured within a system of tax avoidance and ownership concealment. Both for the money and for the art, the purpose of these ventures can be described as a superficial repudiation of ownership, in order to fortify the same and to protect the assets from various types of intrusions.  The usage of shell-companies can thus safeguard the real owners from challenges to their ownership as they officially are not the named owners.

One example of this is the case of Dmitry E. Rybolovlev, the Russian billionaire collector, who according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) used the infamous law firm Mossack Fonseca to protect his ownership of his $2 billion art collection during his divorce proceedings.[1]  The divorce proceedings started in December 2008 and according to Swiss law, which the couple resided under, the two spouses were entitled to equal parts of their wealth. However, Mossack Fonesca had been instrumental in transferring ownership of the collection, which included, among others, paintings by Picasso, Van Gogh, Modigliani and Rothko, to the company Xitrans Finance Ltd in the British Virgin Islands. This meant that they could no longer be found nor considered part of their shared wealth in the divorce proceedings. [2] On April 6 Rybolovlev's family lawyer made a statement claiming that the "description and references to the divorce proceedings of Mr Dmitriy Rybolovlev are misleading", as it "fails to state that the ex-spouses Rybolovlev amicably settled their matrimonial dispute and announced in a joint statement dated 20th October 2015".[3]  He further points to the fact that Xitrans Finance had been established in 2002, several years before the divorce proceedings and that its use "as a holding entity to constitute a remarkable art collection has been publicly disclosed in numerous publications worldwide and is perfectly legitimate.”[4]

Nevertheless, according to the Panama Papers Mossack Fonseca has for decades been helping spouses to shield assets from their better halves. Martin Kenney, an asset recovery specialist based in the British Virgin Islands has been helping wives from numerous countries including the UK, USA and Russia to recover hidden possessions. According to him, “These offshore companies and foundations . . . are instruments in a game of hide and concealment.”[5]

Another type of ownership obscurity can be seen in the case of the Seated Man with a Cane, a Modigliani painting bought in 1996 by the International Art Centre (IAC) and valued at $18-25 million.[6] According to a restitution claim filed by Philippe Maestacci on October 28, 2011, this painting had been looted by the Nazis from his grandfather, the art dealer Oscar Stettiner. Stettiner's inventory had been sold by Marcel Philippon a Nazi-appointed administrator after Stettiner fled from Paris in 1939. The Modigliani had been sold in 1944 and as early as 1946 Stettiner tried to retrieve the work but died two years later without resolving the claim. [7] In 2011 Maestracci picked up the struggle and sued the art dealing Nahmad family, often associated with the IAC, seeking the return of the painting. However, the suit was withdrawn when the Nahmads claimed that the IAC owned the painting and rather than themselves.[8] Indeed the ICIJ has reported that “The Nahmads have insisted in federal and state court in New York that the family does not possess the Modigliani.”[9] The Panama papers have now revealed that the International Art Centre has been owned by the Nahmad family for 20 years and since 2014 the patriarch David Nahmad has been the sole owner.[10] Confronted by the ICIJ David Nahmad's lawyer, Richard Golub, insisted that "Whoever owns the IAC is irrelevant", and the main issue is that Maestracci has no evidence that his grandfather, Stettiner, was the painting's original owner.[11] This standpoint seems not to be commonly shared and on April 8 the Geneva Prosecutor's Office searched the facilities in the Geneva Ports looking for the lost painting.[12] It was later revealed that the painting had been confiscated by the prosecutors during the raid.[13] While the restitution claim remains to be settled the reappearance of the painting and the confirmation of David Nahmad's ownership finally makes it possible for Philippon to proceed with his restitution claim.

According to Anders Rydell who has studied Nazi looted art, this case is not unique but he has found several other cases of Nazi confiscations figuring in the leaked files, which have also been hidden away through shell-companies and thus been beyond the reach of restitution claims. With the release of the Panama Papers he observes that "Maybe the right full owners may get their art back."[14]

In addition to these ownership battles, ample works of art are believed to be hidden away from sight as well as tax through shell-companies in the Free Ports. [15] The story of hidden art has just started to unfold and has still a long way to go. What the new discoveries in the Panama papers reveal is not all that surprising, but rather a sad prediction revealed to be true. The art market has long been known to involve shady deals and international crime syndicates. The revelation that art is hidden away should not be news to any of us, but perhaps the emergence of the Panama Papers actually offers a rare opportunity to resolve some of the long standing mysteries which has troubled the art market. Perhaps this will allow restitution claimants fresh material which can enable them to proceed with their cases. Perhaps long lost paintings will be rediscovered from the bowls of the world's Free Ports. Perhaps not. We will wait and we will see.  

___________________________

[1]  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/12/arts/design/what-the-panama-papers-reveal-about-the-art-market.html?_r=0, access 15 April 2016
[2] http://theartnewspaper.com/news/news/panama-papers-russian-billionaire-dmitry-rybolovlev-used-offshore-company-to-hide-art-from-wife-leak/, access 15 April 2016
[3]   Ibid
[4]   Ibid
[5] https://panamapapers.icij.org/20160403-divorce-offshore-intrigue.html
[6] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/12/arts/design/what-the-panama-papers-reveal-about-the-art-market.html?_r=0, access 15 April 2016
[7] http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/news/artnetnews/nahmad-gallery-sued-for-allegedly-looted-modigliani.asp, access 15 April 2016
[8]  http://theartnewspaper.com/news/museums/panama-papers-expose-art-world-s-offshore-secrets-/, access 15 April 2016
[9]  Ibid
[10] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/12/arts/design/what-the-panama-papers-reveal-about-the-art-market.html?_r=0, Access 15 April 2016
[11]  Ibid
[12] http://www.artmarketmonitor.com/2016/04/09/swiss-prosecutors-raid-freeport-looking-for-modigliani/, Access 15 April 2016
[13]  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-11/modigliani-painting-sparks-criminal-probe-and-geneva-art-search, Access 15 April 2016
[14]  http://www.jp.se/article/anders-rydell-om-gomd-nazikonst/, Access 15 April 2016
[15] http://www.dn.se/kultur-noje/konst-form/konstvarlden-kopplas-till-panama/, Access 15 April 2016

February 15, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime: Essayist Catherine Schofield Sezgin Speculates on Paris Theft, May 2010

In an essay entitled “The Paris Art Theft, May 2010,” Catherine Schofield Sezgin relates the events of the theft of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in the 16th arrondissement in Paris and speculates about how the thief may have stolen five paintings.

Christophe Girard, deputy culture secretary in Paris, estimated the value of the stolen paintings at 100 Euros ($123 million). The five missing paintings are reported as: “Le pigeon aux petits-pois” (The Pidgeon with the Peas), an ochre and brown Cubist oil painting by Pablo Picasso worth an estimated 23 million euros; “La Pastorale” (Pastoral), an oil painting of nudes on a hillside by Henri Matisse about 15 million euros; “L’olivier prés de l’Estaque” (Olive Tree Near Estaque)by Georges Braque; “La femme a l’eventail” (Woman with a Fan) by Amedeo Modigliani; and “Nature-more aux chandeliers” (Still Life with Candlesticks) by Fernand Leger.

According to Paris’ mayor, Betrand Delanoe, the museum’s security system, including some of the surveillance cameras, has not worked since March 30 and has not been fixed since the security company is waiting for parts from a supplier.
"In 2009, early January, I was ending a two-week holiday in Paris. We had been staying next door to the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris but had not been inside it. On Saturday evening, the night before leaving, I left my children in the apartment and walked next door to check out the permanent collection which was free. The museum would be closing in a few minutes. I headed downstairs and started looking at paintings, somewhat sure that after days and days in Paris at the Musee d'Orsay and the Louvre and the Musée National d'Art Moderne at the Centre Pompidou that there wasn't much more for me to see in such short time. And then I saw this painting of trees that amazed me, and discovered that it was by Braque, titled, in English, Olive Tree Near Estaque. I just loved it and am happy to share these photos now." -- Catherine Schofield Sezgin.
To seek out this piece, and many others, consider a subscription to the Journal of Art Crime—the first peer-reviewed academic journal covering art and heritage crime. ARCA publishes two volumes annually in the Spring and Fall. Individual, Institutional, electronic and printed versions are all available, with subscriptions as low as 30 Euros. All proceeds go to ARCA's nonprofit research and education initiatives. Please see the publications page for more information.