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

November 6, 2013

Gurlitt Art Collection Discovery: Augsburg Press Conference on November 5 reacts to Focus exclusive

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Yesterday's Augsburg press conference followed publication Sunday by the German magazine Focus of the discovery of an art collection of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of a German art dealer of modern art active during the Nazi era.

Here's a video posted by the British newspaper, the Guardian, on November 5, 2013:
A press conference in Augsburg shows some of the 1,406 unknown works of art found in a Munich apartment in 2012. They include works by Matisse, Marc Chagall, and Otto Dix. Reinhard Nemetz, Augsburg state prosecutor, said (translated from German to English with subtitles provided by The Guardian): A total of 121 framed and 1,285 non-framed works, among them from famous artists, were seized. There were oil paintings, others in Indian ink, pencil, water colours, colour prints, other prints from artists like Max Liebermann and others. Dr. Meike Hoffmann, Berlin’s Free University, said (in English): “Of course, it was very emotional for me to see the works of art and to recognize that they exist but not comment to the value of the collection.
In an accompanying article ("Picasso, Matisse, and Dix among works found in Munich's Nazi art stash") written by Philip Oltermann in Berlin, the art works were described:
Treasures discovered during a raid on Cornelius Gurlitt's flat in Schwabing include a total of 1,406 works – 121 of them framed – by Franz Marc; Oskar Kokoschka; Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec; Max Liebermann; Ernst Ludwig Kirchner; Max Beckmann; Albrecht Dürer; a Canaletto sketch of Padua; a Carl Spitzweg etching of a couple playing music; a Gustave Courbet painting of a girl with a goat; and drawings and prints by Pablo Picasso.
Art historian Meike Hoffmann, of the Free University of Berlin, said the art world would be particularly excited about the discovery of a valuable Matisse painting from around 1920 and works that were previously unknown or unseen: an Otto Dix self-portrait dated around 1919, and a Chagall gouache painting of an "allegorical scene" with a man kissing a woman wearing a sheep's head.
Other information reported by the Guardian from the conference: 'most of the pictures had been stored professionally and were in good condition; only a couple of paintings had been slightly dirty'; the flat had been raided on 28 February 2012, not in early 2011 as Focus magazine had reported on Sunday; Gurlitt, an Austrian national owns another property in Salzburg, but a Munich customs official 'said the existence of more hidden artworks was "not likely"'; and the whereabouts of the 80-year-old Cornelius Gurlitt are unknown.
The emergence of old masters such as Dürer and Canaletto among the modernists further complicates the picture of the extraordinary art collection. Initial speculation had been that most of the pictures were "degenerate art" looted or confiscated by the Nazis. Now it looks likely that at least some were purchased by Cornelius Gurlitt's father, thus making him the rightful owner. One painting, by Gustave Courbet, was auctioned off -- presumably to Gurlitt senior -- as late as 1949. Hoffmann said that determining which of the works have to be returned to the descendants of their rightful owners could take a long time.
As for the authenticity of the art, the Guardian reported:
Hoffmann said she had only properly examined 500 works and could therefore not comment on the entire collection. "With the works I have done research on, I am assuming that they are authentic works. But that's just my personal assessment."
Melissa Eddy for The New York Times reported from Augsburg in "German Official Provide Details on Looted Art Trove" (November 5) identified Siegfried Klöble, the head of the Munich customs office, as the one who oversaw the operation to recover the art and Reinhard Nemetz as the chief of the state prosecutor's office.

Louise Barnett in Berlin reporting for Britain's Telegraph in "Lost Nazi art: Unknown Chagall among paintings in Berlin flat" focused on the emergence of an 'untitled allegorical scene by Marc Chagall' identified by Dr. Hoffmann as 'dating back to the mid-1920s and "was of especially high art history value"'.  Here's a link to images credited to AFP/Getty images as posted by the Telegraph.

After the press conference, Catherine Hickley for Bloomberg reported in "U.S. List Helps Heirs Track Nazi-Loot Art in Munich Cache":
A list of art compiled by U.S. troops in 1950 may help Jewish heirs identify works looted by the Nazis that wound up in a squalid Munich apartment, researchers from the Holocaust Art Restitution Project said. U.S. troops vetted Heldebrand Gurlitt's collection -- including works by Max Beckmann and Edgar Degas -- and handed it back to him 63 years ago, according to a custody receipt that Marc Masurovsky and Willi Korte, researchers at HARP, found yesterday in the National Archive in Washington.
Masurovsky told Hickley that Gurlitt 'regularly acquired works at the Jeu de Paume in Paris, where the Nazis assembled art looted from French Jewish families during the Nazi occupation. Masurovsky is the director of the Cultural Plunder Database of the objects taken from the Jeu de Paume.

Here's links to two article published prior to the conference:

And here's links to articles reacting to the news:

October 22, 2013

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Theft: Three defendants plead guilty. Radu Dogaru criticizes museum's security

Radu Dogaru, Alexandru Bitu and Eugen Darie, pled guilty today in a Bucharest courtroom for their part in the October 16, 2012 theft of seven paintings (Monet's Waterloo Bridge, London and Charing Cross Bridge, London, Picasso's Tete d'Arlequin, Gauguin's Femme devant une fenêtre ouverte, Matisse's La Liseuse en Blanc et Jaune, De Haan's Autoportrait, and Lucian Freud's Woman with Eyes Closed) belonging to the Triton Foundation and on display at the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam.

In his deposition to prosecutors, primary suspect Radu Dogaru contradicted his mother's earlier confession to burning the paintings telling the court that his mother made these statements under pressure from long interrogation by the Romanian police.

Criticisms of security

Dogaru went on to add disparaging comments about the perceived level of security at the Rotterdam museum saying "At first I thought the paintings were fake, because it was so easy to get inside."   He went on to contrast the security at the Kunsthal with that of the Louvre adding "where they have real security".  In pleading guilty Dogaru told the court he gained entry to the museum by opening the door with a screwdriver, adding he could even have entered without any tools. 

In an even more brassy twist of events, Dogaru's attorney, Cătălin Dancu, stated that they are considering hiring Dutch lawyers to introduce an action in court citing negligent security at the Kunsthal as the mitigating circumstance that led to her client's role in the late night thefts.   In addition to blaming the gallery for her client's sticky fingers, Dancu spoke with reporters during a break from the court proceedings and stated that Dogaru had inside help in the heist.  

When asked by the judge whether he had inside help, Dogaru refused to reveal the alleged unnamed accomplice's identity.


May 31, 2013

Will the ashes in a stove in Romania prove to be the remains of the seven paintings stolen from the Triton Foundation exhibit at the Kunsthal Rotterdam?

Photograph of the image of the Matisse
painting from the Triton Foundation
 stolen from the Kunsthal Rotterdam
 on October 16, 2012.
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA blog Editor 

The prosecutor's office in Romania suspects the seven Triton Foundation paintings stolen from the Kunsthal Rotterdam last October 16 may have been destroyed, Agency France-Presse reported May 29. Art Hostage blogger blames this rumor on the failure to offer a reward for the return of this and other stolen art. Two years ago, reports surfaced that the paintings stolen from the Museé d'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris had been thrown in the trash.

According to AFP, investigators are examining ashes taken from the home of the mother of one of the suspects Kunsthal Rotterdam thieves to determine if they include remains of the stolen paintings, including works by Picasso, Monet and Matisse. Seven Romanians have reportedly been charged with the theft. Destruction of the paintings would eliminate evidence in the even the stolen works could not be sold or ransomed back to the art gallery in The Netherlands.

The Dutch website NU.NL quotes the lawyer for one of the suspects as denying that the ashes are any proof that the paintings were destroyed.

Here is a link to previous posts on the ARCA blog covering the Kunsthal Rotterdam theft, including information about the stolen paintings.

On the blog Art Hostage, Paul "Turbo" Hendry, a self-described former stolen art trafficker, blames destruction of stolen paintings on the lack of financial incentives to recovering or returning stolen art.

April 10, 2013

Wednesday, April 10, 2013 - , No comments

New Yorker Leonard A. Lauder Donates $1 Billion Cubist Art Collection to The Metropolitan Museum

Picasso's "Woman in an Armchair"
owned by Leonard Lauder
 is one of 78 works donated to the Met
Today The Met approved a gift of 78 Cubist works from philanthropist and cosmetics heir Leonard A. Lauder, according to The New York Times ("A Billion Dollar Gift Gives the Met a New Perspective").

Forty years ago, Leonard -- the older brother of Neue Galerie's founder Ronald S. Lauder -- began collecting paintings, drawings, and sculptures by Cubist artists. NYT article describes the donation to the Met: 
The trove of signature works, which includes 33 Picassos, 17 Braques, 14 Légers and 14 works by Gris, is valued at more than $1 billion. It puts Mr. Lauder, who for years has been one of the city’s most influential art patrons, in a class with cornerstone contributors to the museum like Michael C. Rockefeller, Walter Annenberg, Henry Osborne Havemeyer Robert Lehman.
In September 2007, a Montreal man, Georges Jorisch, claimed Leonard Lauder owned a Klimt painting, "Blossoming Meadows", Nazis had stolen in Vienna from his grandmother, Amalie Redlich. Lauder disputed the painting's history and within three months the lawsuit was dropped. [In November 2011, Jorisch sold a recovered Klimt painting, Litzlberg on the Attersee, at Sotheby's for $40 million.]

June 14, 2011

Picasso's Granddaughter Diana Widmaier-Picasso Discusses 4 Year Old Theft with The New Yorker

Picasso's Maya à la Poupée on display at The Gagosian Gallery in New York (Photo from Gagosian website)

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

Picasso's Maya à la Poupée (Interpol)
Just finding information out about an art theft case can be like unraveling a mystery. Four years ago, thieves stole several paintings from the home of Picasso's granddaughter, Diana Widmaier-Picasso. Seven months later they returned but little was reported in the newspaper about the details of the theft. Ms. Widmaier-Picasso spoke to Eric Konigsberg (At the Galleries: Granddaughter) in The New Yorker's current issue (Summer Fiction, June 13 & 20, 2011) and described the people arrested for trying to sell one of the paintings six months later on the street in the 17th Arrondissement of Paris:
"That is how professional art thieves operate. The one in charge had two nicknames, and they're both interesting: the Locksmith and Goldfinger. It was like a Western."
Of the Brigade de Répression du Banditisme she said:
"They treated it like the kidnapping of a person in the family."
One of the paintings, "Maya à la Poupée", of her mother, the daughter of Picasso and his mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, is currently on display at the Gagosian Gallery on West Twenty-first Street, in an exhibition, "Picasso and Marie-Thérèse" open until July 15.

April 15, 2009

New Book on the Theft of the Mona Lisa Misses the Mark—and Reality

The Crimes of Paris: A True Story of Murder, Theft, and Detection by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler (Little, Brown and Company, 2009) professes to tell the real inside story of the theft of the Mona Lisa and begins by mis-spelling the name of the thief. Vincenzo Peruggia spells his name with two “gs,” as may be seen in the widely-published mug shot taken of him by Italian police, after his arrest as he tried to return the Mona Lisa to Italy, after having stolen it from the Louvre. It is rather baffling, then, that the authors of this new work of non-fiction chose to spell the thief’s name with only one “g.” The odd choices do not stop there.

It is perhaps surprising that the complete story of the theft of the Mona Lisa, certainly the most famous art theft in history, has never been the subject of a book of non-fiction. It is mentioned in a number of works, but an in-depth monograph is still wanting. The Crimes of Paris professes to fill that lacuna, and its publishers were optimistic—an excerpt was featured in the May 2009 issue of Vanity Fair. (Another new book of 2009, Vanished Smile by R. A. Scotti, also hopes to tell the story—we’ll see if the author can do better). While the account of the theft and recovery of the Mona Lisa is accurate and reasonably well-written, the supposed true crime conspiracy that the authors have uncovered and present in their work, regarding forgeries of the Mona Lisa and a mastermind called the Marquis de Valfierno who was behind the whole plot, is a load of hooey. The sole source of this conspiracy, a 1932 article in The Saturday Evening Post by American journalist Karl Decker, was dismissed decades ago by all scholars worthy of the name as a wholesale invention—and one so outrageous that it is difficult to understand how anyone could believe it to be true.

Decker claimed to have met a con man named Eduardo while in Casablanca. Eduardo proceeded to tell Decker about his forgery ring in Buenos Aires and Paris, selling American millionaires copies of paintings that he told them were stolen originals. This Eduardo, who also went under the alias the Marquis de Valfierno, claimed that he had hired Peruggia to steal the original Mona Lisa in order to convince six separate American millionaires that the forged Mona Lisa that they were buying from Valfierno was the stolen original.

The Valfierno story was long ago rejected as one of two things: either a wholesale invention by Karl Decker to sell his story, or a wholesale invention by a con man in Casablanca that pulled the wool down over Mr Decker’s eyes. It is a shame, then, that a work of non-fiction professing to tell the true story behind a famous true crime, should so mislead its readers. Without the addition of myth, the story of the theft of the Mona Lisa is rich and enthralling, with a fabulous cast of characters (including Picasso, Apollinaire, and a fascinating French detective), the backdrop of pre-war Paris and Florence, and ripples felt to this day. For not only was the theft of the Mona Lisa the most famous theft of any object in history, but it also inspired other thefts, altered the concept of what makes a work valuable, and proved to be a turning point in the history of art, of collecting, and of art crime.

The book is worth reading for its solid if stolid account of the theft and recovery of the world’s most famous painting. It also covers the backdrop of Paris in the ‘teens, with a variety of characters sketched into what is more a pastiche of a period in time than a thorough exploration of one crime. In terms of setting the scene, painting the atmosphere of a time and place, the book succeeds nicely.

But it is, of course, the art crime that is of greatest interest to this review. The Hooblers’ tale of the Mona Lisa theft would have done well to have ended without the addition of Valfierno—and it would have been nice to have spelled the name of the protagonist correctly. Trying to shoe-horn a myth into one of history’s great true stories poisons the portions that are true, and cultivates the misconceptions about art crime that already abound.