Top Collector Sentenced to Prison for Money Laundering—and the 9 Other Biggest News Stories This Week
01 Bernardo de Mello Paz, a Brazilian art collector and founder of the Inhotim Institute, has been sentenced to nine years in prison for money laundering.
(via the New York Times)
The sentence, which was handed down in September, was only revealed by prosecutors last week. Paz was convicted of siphoning off funds from his fabled outdoor museum, Inhotim. He is accused of channelling some of the $98 million in donations that the contemporary art institution received between 2007 and 2008 towards his private steel and mining businesses. Paz has long denied the charges, calling them a “mountain of nonsense and lies.” He will likely remain free until his appeal is upheld by at least one higher court, which is typical for white-collar criminals sentenced to prison time in Brazil, according to the Times. His sister, Maria Virgínia de Mello Paz, was sentenced to five years in prison in connection with the scheme. Allan Schwartzman, artistic director of Inhotim and principal of Art Agency, Partners, told The Art Newspaper he was not planning to leave his position at Inhotim and added, “This is a legal and venerated non-profit institution certified by the federal government. I know Mr. Paz to be a man of great integrity and vision who has developed Inhotim for the public good.”
02 Photographer Gianfranco Gorgoni sued the Smithsonian and artist Christo for using his images without permission.
The dispute centers around photographs of Christo’s famous 24-mile installation Running Fence (1972). Christo and his late wife, Jeanne-Claude, sold images of the work to the Smithsonian in 2007, allegedly telling the institution that they held the copyright. But Gorgoni maintains that the photos were not Christo’s to sell. Rather, Gorgoni says he took the images and still holds their rights. The images were first published in the 1978 book Christo: Running Fence, in which the photos are attributed to Gorgoni. The works subsequently appeared in the 2010 book Remembering the Running Fence, and in a film that accompanied a Smithsonian show of the artist—use which Gorgoni says he did not approve. After licensing negotiations for the photographs broke down, Gorgoni brought a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York on Tuesday. He is seeking “a declaration that he holds the copyrights plus unspecified damages,” according to Reuters.
03 Dallas Museum of Art curator Gavin Delahunty resigned following allegations of “inappropriate behavior.”
Delahunty announced his resignation in a statement issued last Saturday, writing “I am aware of allegations regarding my inappropriate behavior, and I do not want them to be a distraction to the Museum or to my colleagues.” The details of the allegations have not been made public and museum officials have declined to comment. But one source “familiar with the museum” told ARTnews that there has been an outside investigation into the situation and the museum was considering terminating his employment. Delahunty joined the Dallas institution in 2014 as a senior curator after leaving the Tate Liverpool where he was the head of exhibitions and displays. Maxwell Anderson, who served as director of the Dallas Museum of Art until 2015, said he admired Delahunty’s “curatorial acumen” in a statement to ARTnews, but added “we are all responsible for our personal conduct, as he has apparently accepted, and now has to address appropriately.”
04 The culture war in Brazil continued as the curator of a controversial exhibition was called to testify before the country’s Senate.
Curator Gaudêncio Fidelis was ordered to appear before Brazil’s senate to testify in front of a committee investigating the “Mistreatment of Children and Teenagers” on Thursday. Fidelis curated the controversial “Queermuseum” exhibition at the Santander Cultural area space. The exhibition—which features both emerging and established artists such as Lygia Clark and José Leonilson—was forced to close in September following demonstrations by conservative groups charging that the work “supports pedophilia.” Fidelis was previously summoned to testify but declined and requested a lawyer. The country’s Supreme Court subsequently determined he was legally obligated to testify but could bring legal representation. Given only one day to appear, Fidelis requested an extension that was denied and now “the federal police must take Fidelis to the senate by force,” reported Hyperallergic. “There is no precedent,” Fidelis told the publication. “Much less with a curator, a member of the artistic community.”
05 The United Kingdom will not host the European Capital of Culture in 2023 as a result of voting to leave the European Union.
(via the BBC)
The European Commission, a governing body of the European Union, announced the cancellation this week, with a spokesperson calling it “one of the concrete consequences of [Britain’s] decision to leave the European Union” in 2019. The move is a gutpunch to the five locations that were bidding to be designated the European Capital of Culture in 2023—Dundee, Nottingham, Leeds, Milton Keynes, and Belfast/Derry. “It’s a sad irony that one of the key drivers of our bid was a desire to further enhance our cultural links with Europe,” Dundee’s bid team told the BBC. British government representatives and cultural organizations also expressed shock and disappointment at the decision. “The prime minister has been clear that while we are leaving the EU, we are not leaving Europe and this has been welcomed by EU leaders,” said a spokesperson for the U.K.’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. While three cities outside the European Union have been designated the European Capital of Culture, EU rules dictate that the only non-EU countries eligible for the title are those formally a part of European Free Trade Association or European Economic Area. Britain’s membership in either is uncertain, with negotiations over the country’s exit from the EU continuing.
06 Documenta curator Adam Szymczyk has criticized how the quinquennial’s budget shortfall was presented in a report.
(via artnet News)
The results of an independent PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) investigation into the $6.3 million budget deficit run by the latest edition of Documenta was presented to the board of the quinquennial’s parent company last week. The auditors found that the primary cause for the cost overrun was holding the event in two locations: Kassel and Athens. But Szymczyk, Documenta 14’s curator, has criticized the way the report by PwC was presented, telling artnet News, he only found out about the details of last week’s board meeting from reading media reports. “I think blaming ‘Athens’ for the trouble is an easy political excuse, opening the way to limiting the autonomy of any future documenta through managerial ‘adjustments,’ thus undermining the fundamental premise of the project—its autonomy,” he told artnet News. While Szymczyk has fiercely challenged the way Documenta’s financial struggles have been communicated in the press—he’s accused the board of “fabricating” a “controlled scandal”—he has not disputed that the event did run at a deficit, nor has he offered his own account of how the quinquennial ran into funding problems.
07 The Massachusetts Attorney General is looking into potential conflicts of interest and financial mismanagement tied to the Berkshire Museum’s decision to deaccession 40 works.
(via the Berkshire Eagle)
The sale of the artwork, originally planned for last week, was put on hold by Massachusetts appellate Justice Joseph A. Trainor following an emergency appeal by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office (AGO). Now, documents show that the AGO’s investigation into the Berkshire Museum is sweeping, ranging from the “institution’s right to sell artworks, to its true financial condition, to possible internal conflicts of interest,” according to the Berkshire Eagle. The AGO is reportedly looking into the connection between board member Jeffrey S. Noble and at least $578,000 in contracting payments since 2011, from the museum to building firm Hill-Engineers, Architects, Planners Inc., where Noble serves as president. Separately, the plaintiffs, whose suit to halt the sale of art from the Berkshire Museum was dismissed, appealed that ruling on Monday. The case was tossed out two weeks ago, with the Judge John A. Agostini finding that the plaintiffs—including the three local residents and museum members now appealing—did not have standing to bring a lawsuit.
08 A German political art collective built a small-scale version of Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial near the home of a prominent far-right politician.
Berlin-based artist group The Centre for Political Beauty livestreamed the construction of their memorial on Wednesday. The group created the replica after Bjoern Hoecke, a far-right, anti-immigrant politician, criticized the existence of the original, saying in a speech in January that “Germans are the only people in the world who plant a monument of shame in the heart of the capital,” Reuters reported. Hoecke, a senior member of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, has previously denied that his speech critiqued the memorial. The artists put up their replica in a small village in the eastern state of Thuringia and stated that they have a third of the money needed to keep the piece up for the next two years. The Centre for Political Beauty “offered to remove the memorial if Hoecke would kneel in front of it and ask sincerely for forgiveness,” Reuters reported. The artwork comes amid growing concern in Germany that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s inability to form a new government in the country could prompt federal elections. Some worry that a fresh round of voting would allow AfD to solidify and expand on the 13% of the vote they received in September’s elections.
09 The grave of Wally Neuzil, artist Egon Schiele’s muse, will be transformed into a monument to her.
(via The Art Newspaper)
Journalist Lana Bunjevac tracked down Neuzil’s burial site in Sinj, Croatia two years ago. Provenance researcher Robert Holzbauer is working to raise the €2,000 for her grave’s restoration in parallel to efforts to preserve Neuzil’s birthplace of Tattendorf, Austria. Schiele’s painting Portrait of Wally Neuzil (1912), a portrait of the World War I nurse who died of scarlet fever in her mid-twenties, has been dubbed the “Mona Lisa of Austria.” But the work became embroiled in a series of Nazi-looted art restitution suits twenty years ago that only came to a final conclusion in 2010 after the Leopold Museum, which holds the piece in its collection, paid $19 million to the heirs of the work’s original owner. But the publicity also rocketed Neuzil’s face to notoriety, with her portrait adorning an Austrian postage stamp and promotional campaigns for the museum. Though Neuzil “stood by” Schiele when he was tried for “corrupting the morals of young girls” in 1912, writes The Art Newspaper, the artist ended their relationship in 1915. Neuzil died on Christmas Day in 1917; Schiele died the following year.
10 A long-lost Spanish masterpiece was discovered in a Welsh castle after a work suspected to be a copy proved genuine.
(via The Guardian)
The portrait by 17th century Spanish painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo had been on display in the Penrhyn Castle in north Wales for the last 150 some years before art scholar Benito Navarrete Prieto traveled from Spain to study the piece. Long assumed by its owner the National Trust “to be of no great value,” according the Guardian, the oil painting of Seville historian Don Diego Ortiz de Zúñiga turned out to be one of only a handful of paintings by the famed artist whose other works are valued in the millions. Initially attributed to the artist upon its acquisition in the 1870s, by the turn of the century the roughly 44-by-37-inch canvas was deemed one of a pair of copies, the other of which—in fact painted by 18th century artist Domingo Martínez—now hangs in Seville’s town hall. Since the restoration of the Murillo, which included the removal of discolored varnish, the work has been sent to exhibit at New York’s Frick Collection before its transfer to London’s National Gallery.
Cover image: Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images.