Showing posts with label Pablo Picasso. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pablo Picasso. Show all posts

February 2, 2016

Tuesday, February 02, 2016 - , No comments

"Picasso" Painting Recovered in Turkey is Deemed a Fake

The purported Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973) canvas of “Woman Dressing Her Hair” seized by Turkish authorities has been deemed a fake on Monday by the Paris-based Picasso Administration, charged with managing the artist's estate.   Agence France-Presse confirmed with New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) that the original artwork, a portrait of Dora Maar, remains safe and is part of their collection.

Image Credit AFP
The Picasso Administration issued a statement saying "the painting seized in Istanbul is a copy" of the famous 1940 work by the great Spanish artist.

Art forgery is the creating and selling of works of art which are falsely credited to others and often involve famous artists or artists who's work can be easily duplicated. 

Art forgery can be extremely lucrative, but modern dating and analysis techniques as well as digital and paper catalogue raisonné -- the most comprehensive, authoritative resource for authentication help to make the identification of forged artwork much simpler to identify. 





February 1, 2016

Monday, February 01, 2016 - , 1 comment

Before and After Comparison and Overlay of Stolen "Picasso" Recovered in Istanbul

Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973) - “Woman Dressing Her Hair” - 
Royan France, June 1940, Oil on canvas, 51 1/4 x 38 1/4 (130.1 x 97.1 cm)

While it is likely too early to see a large quantity of illicit conflict antiquities transiting through Turkey on their way to backroom collectors, that doesn't mean that the stage hasn't been set for flogging other purportedly stolen artworks.  On Saturday, January 30, 2016 Turkish authorities announced the recovery of what appears to be a badly damaged Pablo Picasso oil painting, "Woman Dressing Her Hair" that was once exhibited in a travelling exhibition from August to November 2012 at London's Tate Britain and the National Galleries of Scotland and on displat for a time at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. 
On Display in London

While several news reports have stated that the painting was stolen from a residence of an unnamed female New York collector, the painting's provenance, listed by the MOMA website states:

Original Owner: Pablo Picasso, from 1940 until the summer of 1957; 
Samuel M. Kootz Gallery, Inc., New York;
Mrs. Bertram Smith / Louise Reinhardt Smith, New York, 
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Louise Reinhardt Smith bequest, 1995.

Louise Reinhardt Smith, was one of New York’s most discerning and passionate collectors of modern art as well as a prized supporter of the Museum of Modern Art.  She died quietly at 91 on Thursday, July 13, 1995 at her home in Manhattan and it can be assumed that it was in or near 1995 that the painting's ownership shifted to the MOMA though this is not clearly specified in MOMA's collection history.    The MOMA's website merely states that the work is not on view.  

Posing as buyers, Turkish authorities have indicated that they recovered the painting after a month-long investigation involving back and forth negotiations over the price with the prospective sellers. During that time, officers posing as collectors met with the suspects first at a hotel, then at a yacht marina in the Bakırköy district and ultimately at a cafe in Fatih, on the European side of Istanbul, where the purchase of the painting for $7 million dollars was supposed to be arranged.  There officers took two males, identified as A.O. and M.E.O, into custody and the damaged canvas was recovered.
Original and Recovered Painting
Comparison Overlay

Based on Dora Maar, a young and comely photographer who photographed Picasso in her late twenties, "Woman Dressing Her Hair" was completed in Royan, France during the summer of 1940. Some believe the painting was the artist's representation of a person trapped in anguish, made insane by being exposed to the terrors of war.   In the painting, Picasso painted Maar in an enclosed and compressed space with green walls and a purple floor as well as with hoof-like hands. 

As seen by the above before the theft and after the theft images as well as this simple comparison overlay, the recovered painting's brushstroke dimensions, appear to generally match the original artwork, at least with respect to the artwork's proportions. Pigment matches, useful in authentication, have not yet been made, nor have authorities mentioned the similarity of this painting to the one in the MOMA collection.

The recovered canvas reportedly carries the collector’s name and seals showing its collection history on the reverse side and as a result has been sent to Istanbul’s Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University to be examined further. 

By Lynda Albertson



March 28, 2015

French court convicts electrician and his wife for stealing Picasso artworks that the couple claimed were gifts from the elderly artist

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Five years ago a retired electrician and his wife presented unsigned artworks allegedly obtained as gifts from Pablo Picasso for authentication to Claude Picasso, the administrator for the Picasso foundation

This month, a court in the south of France found Pierre and Danielle Le Guennec guilty of possessing stolen goods.

Vincent Noce for The Art Newspaper reported March 20 that the 75-year-old electrician received a suspended two-year jail sentence:
The works will be returned to the members of the Picasso family. Catherine Hutin, the daughter of Jacqueline Picasso, has told The Art Newspaper that she intends to donate her part of the collection to a museum, but has not yet decided which one.
Additional reading on Picasso's legacy: "Nightmare at the Picasso Museum"

March 24, 2013

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Heist: Looking at the Paintings Stolen from the Triton Foundation (Provenance Information Added)

Lucian Freud, Woman with Eyes Closed
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

The seven paintings stolen from the Kunsthal Rotterdam on October 16 remain missing. On January 21, Romanian police arrested three men in connection with the gallery heist. March 4, Dutch police arrested a Romanian woman believed to be an accomplice. On March 13, a German man who arrested for blackmail after an alleged attempt to sell the Triton stolen paintings back to the foundation. The mother of one of the defendants arrested for the theft has claimed that she destroyed two of the paintings.

Last December Yale University published Avant-Gardes 1870 to the Present: The Collection of the Triton Foundation which offers more information on the stolen paintings stolen from the Triton Foundation. This catalogue is written by Sjraar van Heugten, former head of collections at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, and an independent art historian. Here the catalogue's information on the stolen paintings:

Lucian Freud: Woman with Eyes Closed (2002), oil on canvas, 30.5 x 25.4 cm. Provenance: Triton Foundation, acquired from the artists, 2002.


Paul Gauguin, La Fiancée 
Paul Gauguin, Woman Before a Window, 'The Fiancée, 1888, an oil on canvas. annotated in the lower right in red paint (damaged) La Fiancée; signed and dated lower right beneath annotation in black paint P Go 88, 33.8 x 41 cm. Provenance: Private collection, England; Kunsthandel (art dealer) Franz Buffa, Amsterdam; collection Allan and Nancy Miller, Solebury, Pennsylvania, 1949; auction Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 17 June 1960, no. 87 (unsold); auction Sotheby's, London, 4 July 1962, no. 75 (unsold); auction Christie's, Tokyo, 27 May 1969, no. 302; collection Samuel Josefowitz, Lausanne, circa 1981; auction Drouot-Montaigne, Paris, 3 April 1990, no. 58; Triton Foundation, 1997.


Matisse's Reading Woman
Matisse's Reading Woman in White and Yellow, 1919 was painted in the South of France in the suburb of Cimiez. The 31 x 33 cm work is "oil on canvas mounted on board" and "signed lower left Henri Matisse". Comment: Certificate of authenticity by Wanda de Guébriant, 12 Mar. 1996. Provenance: Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, acquired from the artists on 23 June 1919, no. 21624; Bernheim-Jeune Frères, acquired on 20 May 1931; collection Josse and Gaston Bernheim-Jeune, 1931; Bignou Gallery, New York; private collection, New York, 1947; collection Dr. Peter Nathan, Zurich, 1953; collection Emil G. Bührle, Zurich, acquired from the above on 8 December 1953; Foundation Emil G. Bührle Collection, since 1960; Triton Foundation, 1999.

Jacob Meyer De Haan, Self-Portrait

Jacob Meyer De Haan (Amsterdam 1852 - Amsterdam 1895), Self-Portrait against Japonist Background, circa 1889-1891, oil on canvas, 32.4 x 24.5 cm. Provenance: Collection Marie Henry, Le Pouldu; collection Ida Cochennec, daughter of the artists and Marie Henry; auction Cochennec Collection, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 24 June 1959, no. 77; Marlborough Fine Art Ltd, London; collection Mr. and Mrs Arthur G. Altschul, New York, acquired in July 1961; Triton Foundation, 2002 (on long-term loan to the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 2002-2004).

Sideways view of Monet's Waterloo Bridge
Claude Monet: Waterloo Bridge, London (1901), pastel on brown laid paper, signed lower right Claude Monet, 30.5 x 48.0 cm. Provenance: Collection Werner Herold, Switzerland, circa 1917; private collection, USA, 1970; Triton Foundation, 1998.

Another sideway's view: Monet's
Charing Cross Bridge, London
Claude Monet's Charing Cross Bridge, London, 1901, pastel on brown gray laid paper, annotated and signed lower right à J. Massé/au jeune chasseur/d'Afrique Claude Monet, 31.0 x 48.5 cm. Provenance: Collection J. Massè, gift from the artist; auction Hôtel des Ventes, Enghien-Les-Bains, 24 Nov. 1985, no. 39; auction Hôtel des Ventes, Enghien-Les-Bains, 18 Mar. 1989, no. 6; private collection, Triton Foundation, 1998.

Picasso's Head of a Harlequin
Painted the year before the artist's death, Picasso's Head of a Harlequin (1971) is in "pen and brush in black ink, colored pencil and pastel on thick brown wove paper" (38 x 29 cm) and is "signed and dated in the lower right Picasso/12.1./71. Provenance: Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris; private collection, Europe; Michelle Rosenfeld Gallery, New York; private collection, USA; Finartis Kunsthandels AG, Zug; private collection, USA, 2004; Triton Foundation, 2009.

March 18, 2013

ARTNews' George Stolz on "Authenticating Picasso"

Pablo Picasso at 90 Photographed by Ara Güler
 in the South of France in 1972
ARTnews contributing editor George Stolz presents the story on "Authenticating Picasso" in the January issue. What is and what isn't an artwork by Pablo Picasso is being sorted out amidst conflict amongst the artist's heirs, Stolz writes:

"Forty years after Picasso's death, while his paintings are among the most expensive ever sold, the problem of how to authenticate his work remains a challenge. To avoid mistakes, four of his five surviving heirs have clarified the process but have not included his eldest daughter."

Poor health of Maya Widmaier-Picasso (b. 1935), Picasso's daughter by his mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter (1927-37), and the tension between Maya and her half-brother Claude, Picasso's son with his mistress Françoise Gilot (1943-53) have left the family's authentication business solely to Claude since last September. Stolz explains:
The right to authenticate Picasso's work, however, is considered an inherited moral right, or droit moral. Only individual heirs have this right. When Claude exercises his droit moral to authenticate works by his father, he does so as an individual heir (as does Maya), not in his capacity as the estate administrator. Under French law, an artist's descendants are presumed to have an innate understanding of - or at least a privileged firsthand familiarity with -- the art created by their progenitor, and are thus entitled to issue certificates of authenticity.

October 31, 2012

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Theft: Journalist Colin Gleadell on "overvaluation" of the seven stolen paintings

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog

So much has been written about the October 16 theft of seven paintings from the Triton Foundation on display at the Kunsthal Rotterdam that it takes a long time to sift through so much of the published material to find original information on the internet.  However, Colin Gleadell writing for Britain's Telegraph grabbed my attention with the headline "Stone Dutch works wildly overvalued".

Last week ARCA's CEO Lynda Albertson wrote about the Triton Foundation here on this blog, finding that the collection assembled in the last two decades had been infrequently exhibited, had no website and had its first big show of 150 of the works this month at the Kunsthal Rotterdam ("Avant-Gardes").

This December, Yale University Press is publishing "Avant-Gardes, 1870-1970, The Triton Collection" ($125, cloth) , a 568-page book by Sjraar van Heugten, an independent art historian and a former Head of Collections at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam (about 60 kilometers north of Rotterdam).  The Triton Foundation's collection contains approximately 250 paintings, drawings, and sculptures from more than 170 Western artists dating from 1870 to 1970  including George Braques, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Willem de Kooning, Lucien Freud, Roy Lichtenstein, Édouard Manet, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh and Andy Warhol ("Avante-Gardes").

The statement attributed to the director of the Kunsthal Rotterdam Emily Ansenk posted on the art gallery's website identifies the stolen paintings adding that the investigation will be handled by the police.  As to the seven stolen paintings, Ansenk states: "Perhaps we should add that all stolen works have been internationally registered and described and are therefore unsaleable.  We are not prepared to comment on the value of the works."

Historically, published accounts of art thefts have attached a value to the paintings which thieves have used as a basis for a ransom demand.

However, Gleadell, who has written extensively on the art market, assesses the value of the seven stolen paintings between "£12.5 million and £16 million" based on experts familiar with the collection who wished to remain anonymous:  
Some pictures that were thought to be oil paintings were in fact much less valuable pastels or drawings on paper, and none of the stolen pictures measured more than 13in by 16in – handy enough for the thieves to tuck under their arms. Monet’s oil paintings of the Thames, made when he stayed at the Savoy Hotel in 1901, have fetched as much as £18 million at auction. But the two stolen Monets were small pastels the likes of which have never sold for more than £250,000 at auction.
The Picasso, a late work, was also a small coloured drawing on paper, not an oil painting.
Picasso’s large, late oil paintings have made £10 million at auction, hence a guesstimate by Forbes of £9.7 million. But late drawings of this size have never sold for over a million pounds, though the quality of this one may lift it to seven figures.
The International Herald Tribune came up with a punchy $130 million figure for the Picasso and Matisse alone, and while the Matisse was indeed an oil painting – larger, more sumptuous interiors of seated or reclining women have made £10 million or more – the small scale of this work and less seductive pose of the sitter led our experts to place a value of between £3 million and £4 million on it. 
Similarly, the Gauguin is an early painting from 1888, so is of historical interest, but would not command anything like the sums generated by his sought-after Tahitian pictures. Our experts granted it a £3 million to £4 million estimate. 
The self-portrait by the lesser-known Dutch painter Jacob Meyer de Haan is more difficult because so few of his works have been sold at auction and none for more than £600,000. A friend of Gauguin’s, he painted this when the two were in Brittany in the late 1880s. And while it is stylistically related to the Frenchman’s work of the time, it is a small masterpiece by de Haan; thus a figure of £2 million has been suggested. 
The only contemporary work to be stolen was a portrait of the young journalist Emily Bearn by Lucian Freud, painted in 2002. Although Freud’s late work tends to be less sought after, this is a remarkably tender portrait and has been included in several museum exhibitions. Our experts estimate that it should be worth about £3 million. 

October 19, 2012

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Heist: "Progress in Kunsthal art theft investigation" announced by Rotterdam-Rijnmond Police

Rotterdam-Rijnmond Police in The Netherlands released a press release on their website regarding progress in the investigation of the October 16 burglary at the Kunsthal (Dutch for art gallery) Rotterdam in English, reflecting the international attentional received by the theft of seven stolen paintings by artists such as Picasso, Matisse, and Monet.

Here's a link to the press release titled "Progress in Kunsthal art theft investigation" provided by the Dutch police.  We've copied and pasted the text here for your convenience (the likely date is October 17th):
Investigation following the art theft at the Kunsthal gallery in Rotterdam has shown that the suspects entered through a door at the back of the building. They seized and made off with the paintings in a very short space of time. The collection and examination of camera footage is now in full swing, as is the rest of the criminal investigation. So far no images have been found which are suitable for publication.
Burglars stole seven art works from the Kunsthal at Westzeedijk in the course of the night between Monday and Tuesday. They forced their way into the building at about quarter past three in the morning and were outside again very soon after.
The alarm went off at the security company, whereupon police and security personnel launched an investigation. There were no visible signs of forced entry outside the premises. Nor was anyone present inside the building.
Security personnel only discovered the paintings were gone after they went inside the building.
Forensic detectives made a thorough investigation, carefully securing any clues and evidence both inside the Kunsthal and in the immediate vicinity. They were able to establish how the perpetrators gained access to the building without leaving any sign of forced entry.
The Kunsthal contacted the owner of the works in question. On Tuesday morning the Kunsthal submitted an official report to the police as soon as it was ascertained for certain which paintings were involved. The publication of images attracted world-wide attention to the robbery and the stolen paintings. An international alert was also issued for the pictures.
Apart from images from inside the Kunsthal itself, camera images of the immediate vicinity were also secured. All images are being studied carefully by the detectives. So far no camera images suitable for publication have been found.
The Dutch television programme 'Opsporing Verzocht' also drew attention to the case on Tuesday evening. Images of the stolen paintings were shown during the programme.
Thanks to all the media attention, dozens of tips were received and are being investigated for their usability.
The team spoke to various witnesses. All information is still welcome. The investigators are making a particular appeal to the visitors to the Kunsthal. Did you visit the Kunsthal last week and did you see or hear anything unusual while you were there? Did you take any photos or video pictures? If so you should contact the police on 0900-8844. If you would prefer to speak to the Criminal Information Unit call 079-3458999. We would also like to speak to you if you saw any suspicious vehicles or persons in the vicinity of the Kunsthal in the period immediately leading up to the art theft.

October 17, 2012

Rotterdam Art Heist: What is the Triton Foundation?

Book cover for a volume Yale Press
 is publishing this December
by Lynda Albertson, ARCA CEO

The Triton Collection was built over twenty years by Rotterdam oil and shipping magnate Willem Cordia and his wife Marijke van der Laan.  The collection includes approximately 250 paintings, drawings and pieces of sculpture.  The core of the collection consists of Western art dating from 1870 to 1970 and is reputed to be one of the 200 most important private collections in the world.

An entrepreneur and investor, Willem Cordia served as an officer with the Holland-America Line and later became a strategic investment developer and port magnate in Rotterdam.  His wife’s family was well known in the Dutch shipping world, making their fortune in the worldwide transport of dry bulk cargo like ore, coal and grain.  At the time of his death, Cordia's wealth was estimated at  € 330 million.

The Triton Collection was bequeathed to the Dutch Foundation Triton at the time of Cordia’s death.  Starting with the goal of making the collection and new acquisitions more accessible to the general public, the foundation’s overseers have loaned works from the collection to museums and temporary exhibitions.  Artworks from the collection have been loaned to international art museums such as the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, the Seoul Museum of Art and locally within the Netherlands to the Van Gogh Museum as well as the Hague Municipal Museum.

The Triton Collection focuses on innovators in modern art and includes artworks by Bonnard, Braque, Cézanne, De Kooning, Dufy, Fontana, Freud, Giacometti, Kelly, Klein, Manzoni, Modigliani, Mondrian, Monet, Picabia, Picasso, Stella, Uecker, Van Dongen, Van Gogh, and Vuillard.

From 2006 to 2011, Peter van Beveren served as curator of the Triton Foundation.  The Collection is now curated by Marlies Cordia-Roeloffs, daughter of Willem Cordia and his wife Marijke van der Laan.  The exhibit on loan to the Kunsthal Rotterdam from 7 October 2012 to 20 January 2013 included more than 150 artworks selected from over 100 different artists from the vanguard, the avant-garde of western art history.  Many of the works were on display for the first time publicly.

Between the evening of the 15th and the morning of the 16th of October 2012, the following seven paintings were stolen from the exhibition:

•           Pablo Picasso : Tête d'Arlequin (1971)
•           Henri Matisse : La Liseuse and Blanc et Jaune (1919)
•           Claude Monet : Waterloo Bridge, London (1901)
•           Claude Monet: Charing Cross Bridge, London (1901)
•           Paul Gauguin : Femme devant une fenêtre ouverte, dite la Fiancée (1888)
•           Meijer de Haan : Autoportrait (circa 1889-1891)
•           Lucian Freud : Woman with Eyes Closed (2002)

Rotterdam Art Heist: The Day After

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Questions remain the day after seven stolen paintings estimated to be worth "tens of millions" remain missing from the Kunsthal art gallery when yesterday morning the 20-year-old building's "state of the art" security system alerted private security, then the Rotterdam police, that the contemporary art space had been robbed.  A Picasso, two Monets, a Gauguin, a Matissee -- five of the paintings were attributed to artists favored by thieves for their fame and perceived value -- plus another by Lucien Freud (famous contemporary artist) and Meijer de Haan (1852-1895), whose name may not be as recognizable but the Dutch artist's paintings are in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena (Meyer de Haan painted with Gauguin in Brittany).

Here are links to CBS News (video and text) on the heist and speculation as to whether or not it was an inside job because, as discussed by Chris Marinello of The Art Loss Register, the theft "just went too smoothly".   In the later segment, CBS News correspondent John Miller, a former FBI deputy director, describes art thieves not as sophisticated urbanites (see Pierce Brosnan in The Thomas Crown Affair) but "knuckleheads" who put a lot of time into taking the paintings but will either seek assistance in selling the paintings that usually involves undercover agents, or will try to ransom the paintings back to the insurance company, or will keep the paintings for years as a 'get out of jail card'.

The question after an art heist is more overwhelmingly not who took the paintings but when or if they will ever be recovered.  Listing the stolen paintings into the database of The Art Loss Register, with the media, and other law enforcement agencies is meant to stop the sale of the works through legitimate art dealers and auction houses.

In Kate Connolly's piece yesterday in The Guardian ("Rotterdam art thieves take valuable paintings in dawn heist"), "security experts speculated that the thieves might have taken advantage of Rotterdam's port -- one of the largest in the world -- to swiftly move the paintings abroad" and that the paintings could have been "stolen to order" or held for ransom.

According to the Associated Press (published online here with the Winnipeg Free Press), Dutch police are following up on "15 tips from the public", "studying video surveillance images", and have "focused their attention on a rear door that thieves most likely used to get into the gallery before snatching the paintings."

Here DutchNews.nl reports that the Kunsthal reopened Wednesday and replaced the spaces formerly occupied by the stolen paintings with works from the Triton Foundation (and notes that journalists outnumbered visitors inside the museum).

October 16, 2012

Experts opine professional thieves may have stolen seven paintings from Rottendam gallery for ransom or to be sold later on the black market for a fraction of their worth

Monet's "Charing Cross Bridge, London" 1901/AP
On October 7, Kunsthal Rotterdam, a showcase of temporary exhibitions, opened "Avante Garde" to celebrate the art gallery's 20 anniversary and to display for the first time in public 150 works collected by Willem and Marijke Cordia-Van der Laan.  Just nine days later, the Kunsthal's alarm system went off shortly after 3 a.m., alerting the exhibition hall's private security detail.  Security personnel arriving by car noticed that seven paintings were missing and informed the Dutch police who began their investigation -- sending in a forensics team to fingerprint the area and collect any physical evidence, interviewing potential witnesses in the area, and reviewing security camera footage.

Monet's "Waterloo Bridge, London" 1901/AP
Within hours, Dutch police and museum officials released the names of the stolen artwork: Pablo Picasso's "Tete d'Arlequin"/"Harlequin Head" (1971); Claude Monet's "Waterloo Bridge, London" (1901) and "Charing Cross Bridge, London" (1901); Henri Matisse's 'La Liseuse en Blanc et Jaune'/"Reading Girl in White and Yellow" (1919); Paul Gauguin's 'Femme devant une fenêtre ouverte, dite la Fiancée'/"Girl in Front of Open Window"/(1898); Meyer de Haan's 'Autoportrait'/"Self-Portrait"/ (circa 1890); and Lucian Freud's "Woman with Eyes Closed" (2002). (The images of the paintings here were provided by the Rottendam police to the Associated Press and made available through Spiegel Online).

Gauguin's "Girl in Front of Open Window" 1898
According to security consultant Ton Cremers, the high visibility of the art through the art gallery windows was more of a vulnerability than the lack of night time security guards who could have been taken hostage.  Noah Charney, founder of ARCA, writes that the paintings were likely stolen for ransom.  Chris Marinello of the Art Loss Registry also speculates that the paintings would be ransomed or sold for a fraction of their worth.  Retired Scotland Yard art detective and private investigator Charley Hill believes that the thieves were professionals.

The Kunsthal gallery, normally closed on Mondays, remained closed on Tuesday for the police investigation but planned to reopen on Wednesday.

Picasso's "Harlequin Head" 1971
Spiegel Online offers a photo gallery of the crime scene and the stolen artworks.

Matisse's 1919 "Reading Girl in White and Yellow"
Meyer de Haan's "Self-Portrait" c. 1890


June 12, 2012

FBI: Violent and Property Crimes Down (no separate accounting for antiquities or art theft)

FBI's National Stolen Art File: Picasso's Dance
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

A newly released Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) report indicates 2011 crime rates in the United States declined from the previous year.  The report has categories for robbery and burglary; however, no numbers address art theft or looted antiquities.

The FBI's website does have a section on "Art Theft" which includes current art crime cases, the FBI's Top Ten Art Crimes, and information about the Art Crime Team.  The FBI's National Stolen Art File Search allows the public to search for stolen artworks.  For example, under paintings I searched for "Picasso" and received the title of ten pictures, some with images, such as Picasso's "Dance".  The FBI's Art Crime Team is a team of agents assigned in various offices of the federal agency.

June 9, 2012

Accusations of money laundering, vandalism and the theft of a Picasso lithograph in Northern California at a mansion allegedly belonging to the former Ukrainian Prime Minister

Novato mansion/Associated Press
The theft of a Picasso lithograph, accusations of money laundering, and vandalism converge in an abandoned mansion in Northern California.

More than 100 people partied in a 19,500 square foot residence in South Novato without the permission of the alleged owner, former Ukrainian Prime Minister  Pavlo Lazarenko, reports Will Jason for the Marin Independent Journal.

The caretaker reported that amongst the vandalism, a $30,000 Picasso lithograph disappeared.

Lazarenko is imprisoned in Southern California.  The United Nations estimates that Lazarenko stole $200 million from the government of Ukraine.

UPDATE: The Picasso lithograph was found on a walking path below the mansion and handed over to the police.  You can see the video and read the story here.

January 17, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - , No comments

Why do thieves steal paintings by Picasso?

Picasso's "Nude, Green Leaves
 and Bust"/Estate of Pablo Picasso
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

After international headlines reported the theft of a Picasso painting from Greece last week, a Spanish journalist inquired with ARCA as to why paintings by Pablo Picasso were the target of so many art heists? Was it because the artist was so productive? Or because he was so famous? In response, I said that headlines also typically reported record sales or 'the most expensive paintings' and that in the past two decades, paintings by Picasso had been sold publicly through auction houses and dubbed as "most expensive painting") (Wikipedia)

Here's the list of Picasso paintings as sold from 1989 through 2010 with links to a sample headline heralding the sale (Year of sale, title of painting, reported sales price in millions of US dollars, and the auction house):

1989, Au Lapin Agile, $40.7MM, Sotheby’s New York;

1989, Yo, Picasso, $47.85MM, Sotheby’s, New York;
1989, Les Noces de Pierrette, $49.3MM, Binoche et Godeau, Paris;
1997, Le Rêve, $48.4MM, Christie’s, New York;

1999, Femme assise dans un jardin, $49.6MM, Sotheby’s, New York;
2000, Femme aux Bras Croisés, $55.0MM, Christie’s, New York;
2006, Dora Maar au Chat, $95.2MM, Sotheby’s New York;
2004, Garçon à la pipe, $104.2MM, 2004 Sotheby’s New York; and
2010, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, $106.5MM, Christie’s New York.

The publicity of record sales for Picasso paintings creates an awareness amongst thieves that the artworks by Picasso are valuable to both art collectors and the public.  A thief wouldn't need expert knowledge to determine which paintings on display are valuable, only access to the newspaper headlines reporting public sales of expensive art.

January 14, 2012

CBC Radio's "Day 6" Interviews ARCA Instructor Richard Ellis in "To catch an art thief" about the use of art as collateral or currency "in criminal enterprises such as drugs or arms or people trafficking"

Brent Bambury, host of the show Day 6 on CBC Radio, "talks" with art crime expert Richard Ellis, founder of the Art and Antiquities Squad at The New Scotland Yard.

Bambury begins his show discussing this week's theft of paintings by Picasso and Mondrian from the National Gallery in Athens when thieves prompted security guards to turn off their security system by setting off a series of alarms that made the guards think the system wasn't working and shut the alarm system down. As Bambury recounts, the thieves then entered the museum in Greece and stripped three paintings from their frames; "everything was going according to plan" Bambury says until one of the thieves set off a motion sensor attracting attention of the security staff who watched them flee. [Officially the number of thieves has not been released.) One of the paintings was recovered when a thief dropped it during the escape, according to international reports.

Bambury asks Ellis what happens after a thief pulls off a successful heist that draws international attention.
Ellis: In one particular Picasso theft the chap got into a taxi in London and drove around and delivered it to the person who had asked him to steal it, so it depends entirely who you are and what your intentions are. Looking at the Greek experience recently, it was a well orchestrated theft, so they may have well have gone beyond planning the actual theft and have already worked out what they could do with the pictures. 
Bambury: How does a thief monetize a painting? What is the value of something that is so very difficult to sell? 
Ellis: Value is established unfortunately through the media. I say unfortunately because there is a tendency of following an art theft to try and arrive at the highest possible value because it makes for a better story. Criminals will take the highest published value and they will work anywhere between 3 to 7 or even 10% of that reported value as its black market value. Clearly if it’s a valuable painting it can still be a significant sum of money and they’ll use that as collateral or as a form of currency and it will then just be used as a way to pay for other criminal enterprises such as drugs or arms or people trafficking. 
Bambury: So a painting then becomes a token of value in the larger world of organized crime? 
Ellis: Exactly that. Last year … in October I recovered two Picassos in Serbia that had been stolen in Switzerland in February 2007. Now what I learned from that experience is that art is actually being used as a currency because it is easier to travel across international borders carrying a painting than it is to travel across international borders carrying a lot of money. If you’ve got money on you, the authorities are alert to money laundering and you will be questioned and you will have to justify your possession of that money. With paintings, unfortunately a lot of law enforcement are not to so familiar with the art scene, they don’t have easy access to databases of stolen art and antiques. The chances are that the criminals will be able to travel across international boundaries with a stolen work of art.
In the discussion on Day 6, Mr. Ellis goes on to dispel the myth of “Dr. No” the evil art collector hiring thieves to steal art masterpieces for his personal enjoyment. He then describes the operation to recover Munch’s The Scream, which had been stolen from the National Gallery of Norway in 1994 while authorities were distracted with securing the opening day of the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. He also describes Canada’s role in the global market for stolen art.

When Bambury asks Ellis to speculate on the whereabouts of the two paintings recently stolen from the National Gallery in Greece, Ellis guesses that the "porous" borders of Greece with the Balkan countries may have provided an escape route to Montenegro or Serbia.

You can read a summary of the interview on CBC Radio’s website here “To catch an art thief” and listen here to the interview between Brent Bambury and Dick Ellis on the show “Day 6: Inside The World of International Art Theft.”

January 9, 2012

Bonne Année: Museum Theft in Greece Ends Holiday Weekend

Picasso's Woman's Head
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Reports from Istanbul bumped by museum theft in Greece.

A few kind and loyal readers have emailed me as to the lack of posts on this blog for the past month. I truly had intended to post from either Ankara or Istanbul but between preparing for a Christmas in a Muslim country (easier than you would think) and re-exploring the cultural institutions of both cities, I fell victim to the charms of Turkish life.

In Istanbul I feasted on roasted chestnuts from street vendors and dreamed of Constantinople and the Ottoman Empire as I traveled daily on the municipal ferry which carried me from Asia where I lodged to Europe where I wandered the narrow streets of Pera near the Galata Tower, perfecting the pedestrian survival skills needed to dodge the fearless drivers of this 8,000 year old city of 13 million people.

Sketch by Caccia
Back in my sunny garden in Pasadena, with my back to the dried squirrel blood left by the hawk who had moved into our yard during our absence, I had planned to start this week with a series of posts about Anakara's Anatolian Civilizations Museum and Istanbul's Archaeology Museum; however, the news coming in from The Museum Security Network this morning featured a robbery at Greece's National Gallery.

According to Reuters: After setting a series of false alarms, thieves broke into the National Gallery in Athens and stole two paintings, Pablo Picasso's 1939 painting "Woman's Head" donated by the artist to the Greeks in 1949 and Piet Mondrian's 1905 "Mill", and one sketch by Italian painter Guglielmo Caccia:
"It all happened in seven minutes," said a police official who declined to be named.

To mislead the guard, the thieves activated the gallery's alarm system several times before breaking into the building at 4:30 a.m. (0230 GMT). The guard turned off the alarm only to later spot one of the thieves through the motion detector.

Before escaping, the thief dropped another 1905 Mondrian painting, the "Landscape," police said. [Reporting by Renee Maltezou, editing by Paul Casciato]
Piet Mondrian's "Mill"
(Photo provided by National Gallery/AP)
Reuters reported that the number of thieves is unknown.

CBC News reported that the stolen artworks were "stripped from their frames":
The museum, which features mostly 19th and 20th century Greek paintings, had just concluded the exhibition Unknown Treasures.  On Monday, it has been scheduled to shut down for an expansion and restoration project. [CBC]
BBC News reported that Picasso donated "Woman's Head" to Greece for "the country's resistance to Nazi Germany." According to BBC, the gallery has not established the value for the stolen artwork but closed its doors on Monday as a result of the burglary.

Mark Durney writes today in Art Theft Central that budget cuts may have affected the effectiveness of museum security.  Mr. Durney has also written of the pattern of museum thefts during the holiday season -- and last Friday, January 6, on the Greek Orthodox calendar was the Theophany, or the Epiphany, the celebration of the Three Kings or Wise Men bearing gifts to the Baby Jesus.

In another example of the vulnerability of a cultural institution, the aging National Gallery in Greece was scheduled for an expansion and renovation, just as the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was in 1972 before it was robbed (also on a holiday weekend, Labor Day in September in that case).

We can only hope that the thieves will be unable to sell the paintings on the black market and will return the artworks as in the case reported recently by Lee Moran of The Daily Mail when thieves contacted an art expert to return René Magritte's Olympia stolen from Musée Magritte in Brussels in September 2009.

July 8, 2011

Stolen Picasso drawing "Tete de Femme" recovered two days after theft in San Francisco

Police arrested a 30-year-old man in Napa Valley, California, two days after he allegedly stole 1965 pencil drawing by Pablo Picasso, Tete de Femme, from a San Francisco gallery. The artwork is undamaged and the motive is unknown. You may find further information as reported by Mike Aldax in San Francisco's Examiner here.

July 7, 2011

Thief Walks Away with Picasso Sketch a San Francisco Gallery Had Hung Close to the Entrance to "make it accessible to the public"

Add caption
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Ari Burack reports in "Picasso sketch stolen from Geary Street gallery in daytime heist" for The Examiner in San Francisco that on July 5 a man "plucked" a Picasso sketch off the wall and left in a taxicab.

The Union Square gallery had insured the artwork before displaying it:

The framed piece, which had been perched on a pillar near the front of the gallery, was double hooked to the wall to try to prevent such a theft, Weinstein said.

The Examiner reports that "The stolen piece is part of Picasso’s Bresnu Collection. Maurice Bresnu was Picasso’s chauffeur. Picasso used to give sketch drawings as gifts to Bresnu and his housekeeper."

This is reminiscent of the story Picasso's electrician has told about receiving work from the artist. Now those works have been confiscated by the courts, the electrician is facing charges, and the question is whether or not the case will be settled in the electrician's lifetime.

Read more at the San Francisco Examiner: http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/crime/2011/07/picasso-sketch-stolen-geary-st-gallery-daytime-heist#ixzz1RONMMO7n including a related story about a neighboring surveillance camera that may have recorded the thief leaving the gallery.