01 A Claude Monet painting lost during World War II was discovered rolled up in a Louvre storage space.
(via artnet News)
The National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo announced on Monday that Water Lilies: Reflection of Willows (1916) will go on view at the institution after undergoing major conservation efforts. The painting was discovered by a French researcher in 2016; it was heavily damaged after spending six decades in storage at the Louvre, artnet News reported. Japanese collector Kojiro Matsukata had purchased the piece in the 1920s, one of roughly 25 Monet paintings owned by the businessman who had hopes of opening a museum of Western art in Japan. That dream was dashed by a series of catastrophes, including a London fire that destroyed 400 works owned by Matsuka and stored in the city. His collection in Paris, however, remained under the care of an art advisor until being “sequestered” by the French government during World War II, artnet News wrote, and while much of it was returned to Japan in 1959, Water Lilies: Reflection of Willows had been missing for nearly six decades.
02 A £112.7 Million Picasso spending spree buoyed big sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s in London.
The 2018 auction season season appeared to begin with a bang as the Impressionist and Modern evening sales at Christie’s came squarely within its estimate and Sotheby’s surpassed its high estimate, thanks to sales of work by that longtime industry stalwart, Pablo Picasso. A portrait of his mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter sold for £49.8 million ($69.2 million) at Sotheby’s on Wednesday, making it the most expensive painting and the second-most expensive artwork ever sold in Europe. The 1937 painting Femme au béret et à la robe quadrillée (Marie-Thérèse Walter) was purchased by a client on the phone with Lord Mark Poltimore, deputy chairman of Europe for Sotheby’s. According to industry newsletter the Baer Faxt and Bloomberg, the client on the phone was the London advisory outfit Gurr Johns, whose executive chairman Harry Smith had already calmly snapped up nine Picassos at Christie’s on Tuesday and finished Wednesday with three more on top of the portrait of Marie-Thérèse, a total of 13 works in two days for a combined £112.7 million ($155.2 million). It is unclear why the advisor was snapping up so many canvases by Picasso—Gurr Johns did not respond to emails and calls—but Smith was bidding on every single one. There was more good news for Sotheby’s this week when the auction house reported better-than-expected earnings in the fourth quarter and strong full-year profits thanks to higher auction sales, robust private dealmaking, and a growing presence in Asia.
03 The Richard Avedon Foundation claims an unauthorized biography of the photographer includes hundreds of factual errors.
(via The Art Newspaper)
On Wednesday, a banner appeared at the top of the Richard Avedon Foundation’s website: “Foundation pushes Spiegel and Grau to immediately cease publication and correct the record; publisher says facts don’t matter.” The text refers to Something Personal, an unauthorized biography published by a Penguin Random House imprint, Spiegel and Grau, last year. The account of Avedon’s life—described as “part memoir, part biography and part oral history” by the book’s dust jacket—was penned by the photographer’s former studio director Norma Stevens and long-term book publisher and editor, Steven M. L. Aronson. But the Foundation is arguing that, despite Stevens’s close relationship with the artist, just one-third of the account contains about 200 factual errors. Some major points of contention are whether or not Avedon shared an intimate relationship with Marilyn Monroe, and if Avedon himself made an unsolicited call to the Smithsonian museum to offer a donation of his prints and negatives. While the Foundation’s list of errors is likely to grow with the help of an online correction submission system built into the site, the publisher’s lawyer, Matthew Martin, recently told The Art Newspaper that disagreements have emerged due to Avedon being “well known for embellishing stories or simply fabricating,” and that the Foundation has “no evidence” to back their accusations.
04 A mobster suspected of having ties to the notorious Gardner heist will serve 11 months on gun charges.
(via The Hartford Courant)
Robert “The Cook” Gentile, an 81-year-old Mafia gangster, was sentenced Tuesday to a 54-month sentence for gun charges, of which he has already served around 35 months while awaiting sentencing. Since 2010, Gentile has been suspected of involvement with the 1990 heist in which two thieves, disguised as police officers, made off with 13 paintings from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. According to the Courant, “When the FBI searched Gentile’s house in 2012—the first of four searches—agents found police hats, badges, $20,000 in cash stuffed in a grandfather clock, what a judge called ‘a veritable arsenal’ of weaponry and, significantly, a list of the stolen Gardner pieces accompanied by possible black market prices.” Two years prior, the widow of one of his mob partners had told FBI agents she witnessed her husband give Gentile two of the stolen paintings roughly a decade prior. Gentile told the Courant he did not have any art, “but probably obtained the list in connection with a plan to swindle someone who was trying to buy it.”
05 Malaysian artist Fahmi Reza was sentenced to one month in prison for his political cartoons of the country’s prime minister.
41-year-old Fahmi, a political cartoonist, is known for portraying Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak as a ghostly clown with arched eyebrows and scarlet lips. Najib, who faces a general election this summer, remains tainted by a 2015 scandal over siphoning millions from Malaysian investment funds. This week, a court in the northern city of Ipoh sentenced Fahmi to one month in prison and demanded $7,700 in fines for his cartoons of the embattled prime minister, who is still expected to win the upcoming election. On Twitter, the artist wrote that his portraits are an “act of protest against this corrupt government that uses the Sedition Act and other draconian laws to silence dissenting voices.” The Sedition Act, a law enacted in Malaysia by British colonial administrators in 1948, prohibits any publication, action, or language displaying disapproval of the government. While Fahmi was able to raise funds to cover the entire amount of his fine, the artist’s lawyer, Syahredzan Johan, says they plan to appeal.
06 The 2017 NBA champions, the Golden State Warriors, toured the National Museum of African American History and Culture on their trip to Washington, D.C.
(via The Washington Post)
The Warriors had been disinvited by U.S. President Donald Trump from visiting the White House, a customary honor for a championship team, after their star Stephen Curry said he wasn’t interested in going. Instead, the team went to the city’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, part of the Smithsonian Institution, with a group of kids from Prince George’s County, where fellow Warriors star Kevin Durant grew up. Durant told the Washington Post he was thrilled to be able to provide the opportunity for those young people to hang out with him and his teammates. “To be able to provide them that type of experience, it’s going to do a lot for those kids,” Durant said, crediting his teammates and the team’s general manager for having the idea. Durant said he found inspiration in the museum’s displays, and is looking forward to returning on his own. “It was just impactful. There was so much that you hear and I learned in elementary school, and through school, but just some of the photos…my mom, my parents, they wouldn’t let me see as a kid,” he said. “Some of the stuff you probably had to wait until you were older to see. It was good to get that history.”
07 The Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery in The Hague is using advanced new technology to uncover the secrets of Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring.
(via The New York Times)
Johannes Vermeer’s 1665 painting, which has been on view at the museum since 1881, will come off the wall and out of its frame for the first time in decades, as a team of researchers from conservation institutes and universities use advanced X-ray and optics technology to analyze the masterpiece down to each coat of paint. Experts will create computer visualizations and dive deep into the pigments’ minerals to better understand how Vermeer created the glowing hues of the woman in a turban, without having to physically touch the work. To appease the tens of thousands of visitors who come to the museum to see Vermeer’s painting, the project will take place not in a restoration studio but in the museum, where attendees can see it being studied through a glass partition. And the whole thing will wrap-up quickly to get the famous work back on the wall; as paintings conservator Abbie Vandivere told the New York Times, “We’ll see how much information we can gain with the technology at our disposal in a very short period of time—two weeks, working 24 hours a day, day and night.”
08 The National Gallery of Victoria has terminated its relationship with Wilson Security following criticism of the security contractor.
(via The Guardian)
Wilson Security has come under fire for allegations that its employees repeatedly breached ethical standards at several Australian offshore detention facilities where the firm operates, including those located on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. Following public reports that guards subjected asylum seekers and detainees to sexual, physical, and mental violence, a group of artists formed The Artists’ Committee to protest the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)’s employment of Wilson Security. The Artists’ Committee’s actions have ranged from placing a veil branded with Wilson’s logo over Pablo Picasso’s Weeping Woman (1937), which is held at the museum, to dyeing the gallery’s moat and “water wall” blood red. Last August, 1,500 people from the arts community signed an open letter calling for the gallery to cease its contract with Wilson Security. On Wednesday, the NGV released a statement with no mention of the protests or petition. However, it stated that Wilson Security was “the NGV’s interim security service provider while we were in a Victorian government procurement process to secure a long-term security services provider,” and that “we have commenced the short transition to our new provider.” The NGV’s new contractor has not been publicly announced.
09 A New York judge appointed a new executor for the estate of Chinese artist and collector C.C. Wang.
The new executor will be the artist’s daughter Yien-Koo Wang King, who succeeds the artist’s grandson Andrew Wang. Andrew stands accused of stealing over 20 paintings and has been linked to the “suspicious dealings in the sale of nearly 100 works,” ARTnews reported on Tuesday. An earlier trial had found that Andrew had manipulated C.C., who suffered dementia towards the end of his life, into making Andrew and his father the executors of an estate once valued at $60 million before C.C.’s death in 2003. C.C. was a collector of Chinese art as well as an artist, and ARTnews reported that “The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York acquired various works from Wang over the years and went on to stage a 1999 exhibition of objects from his collection.” The judgment from the Manhattan Surrogate Court came earlier this month.
10 A member of the mafia has claimed that a stolen Caravaggio painting was sent to Switzerland.
(via The Art Newspaper)
While testifying to the Italian parliament’s standing commission on organized crime, mafia member Gaetano Grado claimed that a missing Caravaggio painting, Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence (1600), was handed off to a Swiss art dealer after it was stolen in 1969. The theft of the painting from a Baroque chapel in Palermo, Sicily, has remained on the FBI’s list of top 10 art crimes. Grado said that the original thieves were petty criminals, but after the uproar following its disappearance, the mafia realized the painting’s worth, and it was handed over to the head of the Sicilian Mafia Commission, Gaetano Badalamenti. Badalamenti sold the work to an art dealer from Switzerland and, Grado claims, decided to cut the painting into pieces in order to transport it. This is not the first time a wild claim has been made about what the mafia did with the painting––according to TheArt Newspaper, previous mafia members have alleged that the painting was “stored in a stable and eaten by mice,” and even “used as a bedside carpet by a mafia boss.” The name of the Swiss dealer has not been released, but the head of the government commission on organized crime, Rosy Bindi, is following the lead and hoping for international cooperation.
Cover image: Photo by Stacy Wyss