Following a nearly year-long investigation into a series of Lee forgeries, a suspect was arrested in May after fleeing to Japan. The man charged—identified only by his surname of Hyeon—operated a gallery in Northeastern Seoul, from which he allegedly sold counterfeit Lee paintings and raked in some $1.1 million in the process. According to appraisers and forensic experts, the works in question were not genuine; even Hyeon admitted to forging the paintings when questioned by police. Authorities also requested that Lee confirm that the works were indeed counterfeits. Following a two-day inspection of the works, during which the artist looked over the pieces with a magnifying glass and compared them to catalogue records, he declared that he “found nothing wrong in all the 13 pieces. The use of color, rhythm and breathing are all mine.” Though artists have relatively robust powers to de-authenticate a work, it is rare for one to do the opposite and re-authenticate an allegedly forged piece. Normally, deference is given to the determination of the artist, but in this case police have said they will continue their investigation.
06 The Richard Avedon Foundation and two master printers who worked with the artist are mired in series of controversies related to the late fashion photographer’s legacy.
Ruedi Hofmann, who served as both the technical supervisor of ’s
commercial practice and the master printer for the 1985 series “In the American West,” currently owns 126 prints from the project. He says these works served as payment for the long hours and late nights he spent working on the series, but all of them lack a signature—and now, more than a decade after the artist’s death, the Avedon Foundation refuses to authenticate the prints. A vintage print by Avedon can go for almost $1.2 million at auction; Hofmann hopes to sell the collection of prints for much more. No auction house is willing to sell them until the dispute has been resolved, however. Another master printer, Gideon Lewin, previously attempted to publish a book of his own photographs depicting Avedon in his studio. Claiming these photographs were actually property of the foundation, the Avedon Foundation and Lewin engaged in a series of suits and countersuits that have since been settled. However, continuing copyright issues have further postponed publication.
07 Parviz Tanavoli, Iran’s best-known living artist, had his passport confiscated by authorities at a Tehran airport last Saturday, effectively preventing him from leaving the country.
The 79-year-old sculptor was scheduled to fly to England for a talk at the British Museum
to mark the release of his new book, European Women in Persian Houses
. Officials gave no reasons for barring Tanavoli’s departure; the artist said he could not guess their motivation, either. “I have no idea why they did it. I have not done anything wrong,” he told the Guardian
. “I’m not a political person, I’m merely an artist.”
, best known for his bronze sculptures of the word heech
(or “nothing” in Persian), is the priciest Middle Eastern artist at auction. He has clashed with Iranian authorities before—in 2014, several of his artworks were seized and damaged during a raid on his home in Tehran, the result of a decades-long legal battle with the local government.
08 A former corrections officer is suing Peter Doig in an attempt to force him to authenticate a painting that the artist says is not his.
The convoluted case is among the stranger in art authentication law and would set a shocking precedent should
lose. Robert Fletcher, the former corrections officer, owns a work he claims he bought from Doig four decades ago, and—though it is signed “Peter Doige”—it exhibits formal traits characteristic of Doig’s practice. Doig, however, says that he has found the real Peter Doige, now deceased, whose biography matches aspects of Fletcher’s story about how he came to own the painting. To prevail in court, Fletcher must prove the work is Doig’s, in which case the artist may have to pay damages. Regardless, it is unlikely the work would fetch the multi-million-dollar figures the artist has seen in the past, given that the art market places great weight on an artist’s word when it comes to disavowing a work. Indeed, given the robust legal protections artists have when it comes to the attribution of an artwork, one of the more surprising aspects of this case is that a federal judge allowed it to proceed at all.
09 Allegations of theft have kept a cache of drawings and photographs linked to sculptor Alberto Giacometti languishing in museum storage for the past two years.
Swiss officials boxed up the collection in February 2014, after Paris’s Alberto and Annette Giacometti Foundation claimed the works had been stolen years earlier. Who, exactly, is thought to have snatched the works remains unclear—court documents describe a “prosecution against [an] unknown person” by authorities in France, and the foundation has said it will refrain from speaking publicly until the case is resolved. The Swiss museum where the collection currently resides had the works on loan from local real estate mogul Remo Stoffel.
, a Swiss-born artist who died in 1966, currently holds the record for most expensive sculpture sold at auction. The contested collection includes 16 sketches by the sculptor himself, as well as a series of photographs by the likes of
that documented Giacometti’s life.
10 Settling a tug-of-war that lasted years, a Danish museum will return Italian artifacts to their native country after conceding they were looted.
The settlement, which prevents further political and legal deadlock, followed anxious and lengthy negotiations between the art museum Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen and the Italian Ministry of Culture. Under the terms of the arrangement, the Glyptotek will repatriate the Italian artifacts, which it now recognizes as having “been unearthed in illegal excavations in Italy and exported without license.” Among the pieces in question are the contents of a major tomb excavated north of Rome in the 1970s. In return for the objects, the Italian government will send several significant pieces to the Denmark under a long-term loan arrangement. This settlement exemplifies the tricky nature of such repatriation disputes, even though both parties often feel they have a clear-cut claim. Long-term loans arrangements are one tool in a negotiator’s arsenal when looking to avoid protracted legal battles, and the use of such compromises illustrates that give and take is often required to repatriate allegedly looted pieces under amicable terms.