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Ethics 101 For Dealers: Deaccessioning

Delaware-Art-Museum

Are dealers are "accessories" to an ethical violation if they agree to sell works of art for museums, like the Delaware Art Museum (pictured below), that are selling to raise money for capital or operational purposes? Accessories to criminal acts may, after all, be guilty of an infraction. That's the underlying question, but not my point, in a short piece I wrote, published today, on a  a new(ish) website based in London and with an international audience, mainly of art and antiques dealers. The site, Art Antiques Design, was started by a … [Read more...]

Detroit Creditors Stir Up More Trouble

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Just when things were looking good for the Detroit Institute of Arts, what with pensioners approving the "grand bargain" that allows the DIA to buy its freedom from the city, and with the DIA getting close to its goal of raising $100 million for the grand bargain to work, another creditor has come along to rock the boat. The Financial Guaranty Insurance Company hired Victor Weiner Associates to assess the value of the collection and, in a rush job, VWA put a total value on it of $8.5 billion. You may recall that another "complete collection … [Read more...]

Seizure: Federal Prosecutors Issue Forfeiture Action

sothebys-madonna-cimabue

Federal prosecutors have filed another forfeiture complaint, this one for a 13th century painting that had been up for sale in the Important Old Masters sale at Sotheby's in January. Sotheby's voluntarily pulled the painting and told Courthouse News Service that it had "cooperated fully with the government on this matter." Sotheby's has not been accused of wrongdoing. The troubling issues with the work surfaced when Sotheby's was doing due diligence on the painting. Courthouse News said the painting was a "Madonna and Child" (at right) … [Read more...]

The Deathbed Deal With Cornelius Gurlitt

CGurlitt

The Wall Street Journal published an excellent narrative of Cornelius Gurlitt's final days the other day. You can read it here, assuming it is not behind the paywall. But it may, and so I thought I'd relate a few key paragraphs of the story, by Mary Lane and Bertrand Benoit. It documented, as I suspected, Gurlitt's revenge on Germany. The article begins: Cornelius Gurlitt [at left], 81 years old and his heart faltering, in early January called a notary to his hospital bed in southern Germany, determined to write a last will and testament … [Read more...]

“Spring Masters” Show Hires Architect To Radically Redesign

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Last year about this time, I wrote here about the Spring Show at the Park Avenue Armory, lauding the use of color on the walls of the booths. This year it was  Spring Masters, New York -- they called it and "inaugural fair" as it was under new management, but it is basically a reincarnation of the Spring Show. This year, it had the same array of colored walls -- well, maybe a little less flashy: I didn't see the bright red, yellows and greens that were there last year. But this year it had something else, as its website claims: ...a design by … [Read more...]

Now What? Cornelius Gurlitt Has Died

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News reports are coming in from Europe: the "'Nazi art' hoarder," as the BBC terms Cornelius Gurlitt, is dead at the age of 81 -- "with no definitive answer on what will happen to his secret collection, which included many Nazi-looted pieces." Gurlitt recently changed his mind about claiming all 1,300 or so pieces in his collection as his own, saying he would cooperate with German authorities on establishing the paintings' provenance and that he would return them if they were proven to be stolen. More from the BBC here, plus a look into … [Read more...]

“Bronze” — A Reprise, Sort Of

MatisseJeanettes

In 2012, the Royal Academy in London had a total winner on its hands, in my opinion, with Bronze, an exhibition of about 150 bronzes from all over the world, dating from 5,000 years ago to the present. Robert Mnuchin, the dealer, thought so too: We were struck by the dazzling breadth of inventiveness and the vast range of visual effects at play in the five centuries of bronze objects that the show brought together. After returning to New York, we could not get the show out of our heads. When we learned the exhibition would not be traveling … [Read more...]

Why MFA Boston Makes Me Queasy

NRockwell

Yesterday, the Museum of Fine Arts - Boston announced that it was putting on view "a special loan of the beloved Norman Rockwell painting, The Rookie (The Red Sox Locker Room)" from 1957. MFA made it a celebration of  the "third World Series Championship in a decade" for the Red Sox, and said the painting will be in the galleries for just six days, through May 4. Why? Because it is "being offered at auction at Christie’s (New York) on May 22" in the American art auction. The MFA didn't day, but the estimate is $20- to 30 million. It did … [Read more...]

A Top Ten List In Dubai

Samt-Lam-Yantehi-Mada

I happened to turn to a publication called Gulf Business, which I plan to use in my next post, and then happened upon a very interesting list. We think we know a lot about art in the Gulf States -- hearing all the time of the Doha and Abu Dhabi museums, the big annual art fairs there and the (what looked to me from afar as pretty awful) massive Damien Hirst bronze sculptures of fetal development that went on display there last fall. So the headline in Gulf Business drew me in: Top 10 Most Expensive Art Works Sold By Christie’s In Latest … [Read more...]

Poor Trade-Off — Bellows To London — But One Bright Side

men-of-the-docks

Of course I have mixed emotions about the sale by Randolph College of its beautiful painting, Men of the Docks, by George Bellows, to raise money for its endowment. Remedying financial mismanagement elsewhere is not what art in museums is supposed to do, especially as this painting was purchased by students for the college in 1920. That part is very sad. But the great news is that the National Gallery in London bought the work and paid $25.5 million, finally adding a major American painting to its collection. As Nicholas Penny, the NG … [Read more...]

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