Thursday, March 01, 2018

Stolen Art Watch, Degas Surfaces, Carravagio Re-visited, Nazi Looted Art Displayed, Plus Round-up

French customs officers have found an impressionist painting by Edgar Degas stowed on a bus, more than eight years after it was reported stolen.
The French Culture Ministry said Friday that customs agents in Marne-la-Vallee were surprised to find a work of art bearing the signature "Degas" inside a suitcase in the bus' luggage compartment. The ministry says none of the passengers claimed the suitcase during the Feb. 16 search.
Experts verified the artwork as Degas' "Les Choristes" ("The Chorus Singers"), which depicts a scene from Mozart's opera "Don Giovanni."
The painting was stolen from a Marseille museum in 2009 while on loan from Paris' Musee d'Orsay.
French Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen said she was delighted by the recovery of a work "whose disappearance represented a heavy loss for the French impressionist heritage."

Did stolen Caravaggio go to Switzerland?

Mafia informant claims the painting, which is included in the FBI’s list of top ten art crimes, was sold to a Swiss dealer

Italian investigators are following a new lead in the hope of solving one of the most notorious art crimes of the past 50 years: the theft of Caravaggio’s Nativity with St Francis and St Lawrence from a Baroque oratory in Palermo, Sicily, in October 1969.
In testimony to the Italian parliament’s standing commission on organised crime, recently revealed in La Repubblica newspaper, the mafia member turned informant Gaetano Grado said the painting was initially stolen by small-time criminals. The subsequent press coverage of the theft alerted the mafia to the painting’s importance and potential value. The criminal organisation made it known they wished to receive the work and the Caravaggio was duly presented to Gaetano Badalamenti, the head of the Sicilian Mafia Commission known as the Cupola, which rules on disputes between competing mafia families, Grado said.
Badalamenti then sold the work to a Swiss dealer who travelled to Palermo to finalise the deal, Grado said, adding that Badalamenti told him the painting would be cut into pieces to transport it abroad. When shown photographs of several Swiss dealers, Grado identified the one he claims purchased the Caravaggio from Badalamenti. The name of the dealer in question, now deceased, has not been released.
Rosy Bindi, the head of the government commission on organised crime, said she hopes for “international cooperation” in the investigation of the new information. Grado’s testimony has been shared with the Sicilian authorities.
Mafia claims
The theft of the Caravaggio, which is included in the FBI’s list of the top ten art crimes, has featured in the testimony of numerous mafia informants. The information they have provided has ranged from the unlikely to the absurd. There have been claims that the painting was kept by the mafia for display at their gatherings, that it was stored in a stable and eaten by mice, that it was irreparably damaged during its theft and then destroyed, and even that it was used as a bedside carpet by a mafia boss.

France Hopes Exhibit Of Nazi-Stolen Art Can Aid Stalled Search For Owners

Paintings looted by Nazis during World War II, are on display at the Louvre museum, in Paris. In a move aimed at returning work of art looted by Nazis during World War II, the Louvre museum has opened two showrooms with 31 paintings on display which can be claimed by their legitimate owners.
Christophe Ena/AP
France's most famous museum recently designated two rooms for paintings looted by Nazis in World War II. The rightful owners of these works never have been found, and the Louvre says the exhibit is a continuation of the search. But critics say the museum has not done nearly enough over the years.
The 31 paintings include French, Italian and Flemish artists — eclectic works from various periods that once were destined for the personal collections of Nazi officials and an art museum Hitler was planning for Austria. What the paintings have in common is that they all were stolen or obtained through forced sales from Jewish families.
Louvre curator Vincent Delieuvin says the display is a symbol to remind people that the museum has not forgotten.
"Unlike in the regular collections, we've hung the paintings closely together to evoke the intimateness of a private home," he says. "We want to find the rightful owners of these paintings, but we also want these rooms to serve as a place of memory — a place where people can come reflect on this terrible time in history where Jewish families fled or were killed and their artworks were plundered."
Parisian Collete Grillot, 86, felt it was important to come view the paintings.
"I lived through the war when I was a child and it has marked my whole life," she says. "I'm not Jewish, but at school I had a Jewish friend who wore the Star of David."
Valerie Sutter, a French teacher from Florida, also visited the museum to take in and reflect on the collection.

"I find this fascinating," she says. "That they're still looking, and that they're still hoping to find the owners. I find that very touching, very worthy."
Others are not sure how worthy the Louvre's efforts have been. The exhibit has been criticized for lacking historical context and for being relegated to two tiny, obscure rooms.
Lawyer Corinne Hershkovitch says the Louvre only really has become proactive on the issue of Nazi-looted artwork in the past few years.
In 1999, Hershkovitch successfully sued the Louvre to get back several paintings that were sold at auction in 1941, a year after their owner's death. While the sale of the artwork appeared to have taken place legally, Hershkovitch argued that the fact that the owner's children were unable to attend — because they had fled Nazi-occupied Paris — made it a forced sale. Hershkovitch won.
"They've done too little, too late," she says of the Louvre. "And there's sometimes been this whole sentiment of 'why are you coming to bother us with this 50 and 60 years later?' "
The Louvre currently has custody of around 800 stolen or forced-sale paintings whose owners are still unknown. Most are hanging in museums across France. Curator Delieuvin says that's to give them maximum exposure to the public.
For Hershkovitch, putting museums in charge of giving back artworks was the first mistake.
"Curators want to conserve paintings," she says. "That's their job."
She admits that most families who get artworks back usually do sell them, so not only does the museum lose an important work, but it sees it go on the market to be bought by another museum or a private collector.
During World War II, the Nazis took around 100,000 artworks from France. Some 60,000 were brought back to France after the war, and 45,000 of those immediately were reclaimed by their owners. Then, says Hershkovitch, everything slowed to a halt.
"The Jews wanted to reintegrate into French society and the French wanted to forget about the collaboration, so there was a kind of consensus to pull a veil over all this and move on," she says.

Standingwith French Culture Minister Françoise Nyssen, Christopher Bromberg and Henrietta Schubert, grandchildren of Henry and Hertha Bromberg, view Flemish painter Joachim Patinir's Triptych of the Crucifixion, which was returned to them Monday by the French state.
Didier Plowy/Ministère de la Culture
Hershkovitch says all that changed with the next generation, who raised consciousness worldwide about the issue in the '90s. In 1998 in Washington, DC, 44 countries signed new international protocols for the identification and return of Nazi confiscated art."
A seminal moment in France came with President Jacques Chirac's 1995 speech on the anniversary of a famous roundup of Paris Jews during the war. Chirac said the Velodrome d'Hiver roundup had been carried out not by the Nazis, but by French police.
He said France, a country of enlightenment and human rights, had been complicit in Nazi barbarism. He called on the French to face this dark chapter in their history. It was the first time the country confronted its role in the deportation of some 72,000 Jews during the war.
Hershkovitch says it was huge, and that "Chirac's speech changed things both morally and judicially."
Hershkovitch says people had not come to terms with the country's collaborationist Vichy regime because the hero of the resistance, president Charles DeGaulle, had acted as if Vichy were not part of France.
"He put Vichy in a sort of parenthesis of French history," she says. "And when you put something aside and don't confront it, you cannot solve the problem."
In 1997 France launched a three year investigation into the theft of Jewish art under the Nazi occupation. The ensuing "Matteoli Report" offered propositions for finding and compensating victims and for increasing national awareness of Nazi looting.
That eventually led to the creation of a working group to actively search for the artworks' rightful owners, instead of waiting for them to come forward. The group includes the French culture and foreign ministries, museum curators and the Shoah Foundation.
The French culture ministry also has put its vast database of Nazi looted artworks, including photos, online.
Delieuvin says that database is the best way to link a looted painting to its rightful owner, which he describes as a very complicated process.
"The other day a family came to us with a picture of the work and we found it on the database," he says. But Delieuvan says most often there's no picture or even the name of the person who once owned the art.
Many art sales took place during the war, but not all of them were forced sales. Delieuvin says that if a work was sold at auction it is much easier to track, because records can be obtained showing the buyer and the seller. "If the seller was Jewish, then there's a good chance it was a forced sale," he says.
But plenty of non-Jews also sold works to Nazis during the war. If it was a private sale, Delieuvin says there's usually no trace of who the seller was.
France is still conserving about 2,000 artworks that are thought to have been looted or obtained through forced sales by Nazis. Only around 100 have been returned since the 1950s.
American Christopher Bromberg has gotten back two of his family's artworks. Bromberg's grandfather was forced to sell his paintings quickly as he fled Nazi Germany in 1938 through Switzerland and France to reach the United States.
In a ceremony in Paris last week, French culture minister Françoise Nyssen returned a 16th century Flemish painting to Bromberg and his sister Henrietta Schubert.
Nyssen called the restitution of the plundered work a struggle for justice and memory.
"This is a moment of pain and of hope," she said. "After 70 years and much searching, this painting has been returned to its rightful owner."
Nyssen promised France would continue to fight relentlessly for the return of Nazi looted artworks to their rightful owners.
In 2016 Bromberg was handed over another one of his grandfather's paintings in a similar ceremony.
"There's this feeling of thanks and gratitude that is more valuable than the paintings themselves," he said. "It's the society that I want to take my hat off to, that allows this kind of event to take place."

A Stolen Watch Used to Mean Ready Cash for Thieves. Not Any More

Katya Hills is the managing director of the Watch Register, which provides both identification and recovery services of lost and stolen watches. Credit Tom Jamieson for The New York Times

Watches have long been easy targets for thieves. Stolen off a wrist or taken in a smash-and-grab attack, high-end timepieces, easily transportable and often untraceable, could easily be turned into cash.
But that has been changing. The rise of online services specializing in identifying lost or stolen watches has helped law enforcement, dealers and diligent buyers — even in Miami, which the FBI has identified as one of the top fencing hubs in the United States (and where the Watches & Wonders fair is opening Friday).
“ ‘No mama, no papa’ — that is what they call watches with no papers and no serial number,” Jeff Harris, a Los Angeles-based watch dealer, said. “Those are very easy to trade. After all, a gold Submariner is a gold Submariner.”
To Mr. Harris, the vernacular of that underworld has become all too familiar. He was in Las Vegas last April to attend the International Watch and Jewelry Guild trade show, held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino. With about $2 million in mostly vintage and one-of-a-kind timepieces locked in his room safe, Mr. Harris went to dinner — and returned about an hour later to find the room door broken and the safe missing.
“The safe was crowbarred out of the wall,” Mr. Harris said. “The thief had wrapped it in a towel to take it out to the stairwell. He was caught on video running out of the hotel and jumping into a cab.”

A pair of fake Rolex watches at the Watch Register. Of the 60,000 lost and stolen timepieces in its database, one third are Rolexes. Credit Tom Jamieson for The New York Times

Filippo Salvador Cuomo, who was arrested days later in Miami, was identified from a combination of the surveillance video and a jacket that he left behind in his own room at the hotel. His name had been sewn into the label.
He pleaded guilty to larceny and, through an agreement with Nevada state prosecutors, received a five-year prison sentence; a federal case (he crossed state lines during the crime) is pending.
Mr. Harris’s watches, however, were not recovered. “They made off with a couple of ruby- and sapphire-encrusted Rolex Daytonas, vintage complicated Pateks, Rolexes with Stella dials, a unique Audemars Piguet and other very rare timepieces,” the dealer said.
According to the FBI’s website, organized groups of thieves often use intermediaries, commonly called fences, in cities such as Los Angeles, Houston, New York and Miami to convert stolen goods into cash.
In his case, Mr. Harris said, authorities have leads to two fences in Miami. “We suspect a Miami jeweler and a known Milanese money launderer, identified in the Rio hotel’s surveillance video,” Mr. Harris said. “In the U.S., the hub for stolen watches is Miami. In Europe, it is Italy.”
There are no official statistics on the number of watches stolen around the world each year but the FBI’s website estimates that the jewelry and watch industry in the United States loses more than $100 million annually in retail thefts. Since 1992, the FBI’s Jewelry & Gem Theft program has helped the industry combat such crimes. And, while the bureau does not maintain a database, it does cooperate with the Jewelers’ Security Alliance, a nonprofit trade association that has a registry of stolen watches and jewelry.

5 Things To Consider

  • Taking Precautions

    Receipts, a record of serial numbers and any makers’ certificates or guarantees should be kept — but stored separately from your watches, to avoid losing everything in a robbery. Registry sites recommend that, as an additional precaution, you photograph your watches and all paperwork and then email the images to yourself.
  • Insurance

    Your homeowners’ or renters’ policy may cover theft but check the details. Companies often require high-value items like watches and jewelry to be documented individually, sometimes with valuations. And even if your policy covers losses in a home burglary, it may not cover thefts while traveling or just going about your day.
  • What to Do

    If your watch is lost or stolen, report it to the police and then get an official copy of the complaint. You will need the document to alert the watch’s maker and stolen-watch registries. If the timepiece is found, it also will help establish your claim to the piece.
  • Just Remember

    Social media allows you to broadcast your loss to a wide audience but be aware that there is a risk involved in disclosing a watch’s serial number. A legitimate serial number can, for example, be used on another watch, even a counterfeit one, to improve its chances of being sold.
  • If You're Buying

    It is a good idea to check watch registries for the serial number of any secondhand watch you’re thinking of purchasing. While such a basic search isn’t foolproof, it should turn up any obvious problems.

In Europe, Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency based in The Hague, offers similar help to businesses and it works with International Jeweller Security, a registry site.
After the robbery, Mr. Harris posted descriptions of his watches and their serial numbers online. That information was picked up by MyStolenWatch, a specialized theft-check website that, like Watch CSA or WatchFacts, lists stolen watches by serial numbers. “My watches and their serial numbers are now listed on several registers and they also come up in a Google search if anyone checks,” Mr. Harris said.
The theft-check company with the largest global database of stolen watches is Watch Register, a London-based site operated by the Art Loss Register, a well-known stolen art tracking service founded in 1990. The Watch Register provides both identification and recovery services of lost and stolen watches across borders.
“We had been registering watches since 1991 when we first started collecting information about stolen artworks as a service to auction houses,” Katya Hills, managing director of the Watch Register, said. “By 2014, we had sufficient data on watches to provide a targeted service.”
Today, the Watch Register has details about more than 60,000 lost and stolen watches, involving more than 850 brands. One third, according to Ms. Hill, are stolen or lost Rolexes and, while most of the timepieces are modern, there also are vintage ones as well as pocket watches. Users must pay a fee of 10 pounds plus tax (about $13.75) to check the provenance or status of a watch; subscriptions for dealers and pawnshops that need multiple searches also are available.
“Last year alone, we added 10,000 more watches to our database,” Ms. Hills said. “We get between 80,000 to 100,000 search requests per year.”

The Watch Register also deals with older timepieces. “We treat vintage or pocket watches like antiques,” Ms. Hills said. “We use keywords from the description and the image, and the search becomes more sophisticated.” Credit Tom Jamieson for The New York Times

Unlike modern high-end watches, each of which has a unique serial number, vintage timepieces or pocket watches can only be registered by descriptions of their distinctive features. “We treat vintage or pocket watches like antiques,” Ms. Hills said. “We use keywords from the description and the image, and the search becomes more sophisticated.”
The site has had its successes. In 2016, for example, the Watch Register helped recover a Patek Philippe stolen in Naples, Italy, that had turned up in an auction in New York.
When auction houses are preparing an art or watch event, they typically check their lots against both the Art Loss and Watch registers. “All our worldwide catalogs, including online sales, are checked by the Art Loss Register,” said Sabine Kegel, international senior watch specialist at Christie’s in Geneva.
While auction houses, pawnshops and dealers can check such sites before reselling a watch, Mr. Harris said he feared that such online tracking just pushed opportunistic watch thieves further underground.
“People can still buy a stolen watch and wear it, without ever looking up the serial number,” Mr. Harris said. “Also now there are places that can change the serial number on some watches.”
Because his stolen watches were mostly one-of-a-kind or limited editions, Mr. Harris is optimistic that they will be recovered. “My watches are so unique that they can be immediately identified if they ever turn up,” he said. “There are very few buyers in the world for these watches. The best option at this point may be for the thieves to ‘sell’ them back to me.”

More than £100,000 of jewellery stolen from antiques shop after burglars cut a hole in the roo

Police have launched an investigation after thieves entered a Harrogate antiques shop through a hole in the roof and stole more than £100,000 of jewellery and other valuable items.
Hundreds of objects were taken, including a number of highly-distinctive bespoke pieces. The incident took place on Tuesday, 13 February at 27 West Park, opposite the Stray.

Police believe the thieves cut a hole in the roof of the building and climbed through it at around 9.50pm. They broke into a number of cabinets, probably using a jemmy, and emptied them.
Due to the quantity of items taken from a number of different antique and jewellery dealers, police are still in the process of itemising the thefts as part of their ongoing investigation.
However, stolen items include rings; bracelets; earrings; silver, gold and bespoke necklaces; antique pocket watches and high-value designer watches.
Initial estimates put the value of the stolen stock at more than £100,000.
Police have released images of some of the more distinctive pieces in the hope they will be recognised by members of the public.
They include:
  •  An 18-carat gold ring featuring ruby, diamonds and sapphire.
  • A silver Maurice Lacroix wrist watch
  • A distinctive tiered silver necklace with gemstone setting
  • A number of silver and gem-based items of jewellery, including bespoke hand jewellery worn across the palm of the hand with a highly-distinctive leaf effect on the knuckles

Officers have released CCTV images of a person they want to trace as part of their investigation, which has also seen police carry out forensic tests at the scene and extensive enquiries around the area.
A North Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “While the face of the person captured on CCTV is covered, we’re hoping that members of the public who were in the area at the time may remember seeing someone wearing similar items of clothing – a quilted jacket, possibly light in colour, jeans with a long belt, sporty trainers and a small Nike rucksack.
“We also believe there were quite a few members of the public in and around Roberts Street, which is to the rear of the Maplin store, and the surrounding streets and ginnels around the time of the break-in.
“If you were in this area at around 9.50pm on Tuesday and saw a person or group of people acting suspiciously, please let us know – the information may seem trivial to you but it may be important to our investigation.”
Anyone who has any information about the incident or the person pictured on CCTV, or witnessed anyone acting suspiciously in the area at the time should contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, select option 2 and ask for Amanda Hanusch-Moore.
You can also email PC Moore on or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Please quote reference number 12180024704 when sharing information.

Art Theft: Munch’s Oslo Museum ‘Scream’

On the 12 of February 1994, the day of the opening of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, two men broke into Oslo’s National Gallery and lifted its version of The Scream. The painting had been moved down to a second-level gallery in honour of the Olympic festivities, presumably to become more accessible to the growing number of visitors. It took the thieves 50 seconds to climb a ladder, smash through a window and cut the uninsured artwork from the wall with wire cutters. They left their tools behind to make a swift exit, but not before writing a note reading “Thanks for the poor security”. The entire episode was filmed by security cameras. The international mass media covering the games sensationalised the incident, as expected.
In Lost Art, Jennifer Mundy writes, “In most cases it is clear why a work of art is lost. It can be wilfully destroyed or accidentally mislaid. It may never have been intended to endure; or the materials used may have proved ephemeral. But sometimes the loss can be the result of a cause or a motive that is more difficult to discern or understand. When a work of art is stolen it is usually obvious that the thieves knew what they were taking and why: to use as collateral in criminal activities, to resell on a black market and make major financial gain, or, occasionally, to grace the home of a private collector. (…) there may be an initial flurry of press reports, but a blanket of official silence quickly descends, as the police undertake their enquiries and, more often than not, owners await a ransom demand or contact from an intermediary. Typically, it may be several months or even several years before those holding a stolen artwork make any attempt to contact its owners.”  
This was the case with Munch’s work too. After a month of laying low, the thieves demanded a US$1 million ransom from the gallery, but the latter refused to pay it. Instead, the Norwegian police set up a sting operation in collaboration with the British police and the Getty Museum and the painting was recovered undamaged on the 7th of May 1994. Two Metropolitan Police officers trapped the thieves by pretending they would buy the painting for £250,000. Apparently, it is quite common practice for British police to be involved in recuperating stolen art in Europe, partly because about 60% of it ends up trafficked or clandestinely auctioned in London.
Except for a tiny pinprick, The Scream was indeed found intact in Aasgaarstrand, a seaside town outside Oslo in south Norway where Munch painted many of his well-known works. Two years later, four men were convicted, including one who had already stolen Munch’s The Vampire years earlier, yet they were released on legal grounds as the British agents had operated in Norway under fake identities.
 The extent and gravity of art theft is little known to the general public. “Art theft and the trafficking of stolen works of art is a major criminal business, perhaps the largest in terms of financial value after the illegal trade in arms and drugs. The FBI currently values criminal income from art theft at $6-8 billion a year. The Art Loss Register – a private company that documents and helps trace stolen or lost artworks, antiques and collectables – has over 300,000 items listed in its database and adds a further 10,000 each year. The theft of artworks is commonplace, but it becomes a news item, and lodged in the public’s memory, when the works are by major artists or when they are taken from museums. The loss in these cases is shared and public, and interest may be piqued by the enormous value of the artworks and by details of exactly how they were taken – particularly if there are echoes of well-known films.” (Jennifer Mundy,  Lost Art). It is true that the cinema frequently glorifies the daring of art thieves. Macho art-heist films such as The Thomas Crown Affair (Steve McQueen), Entrapment (Sean Connery), Ocean’s 12 (Brad Pitt) and many more, revel the thrill of the cleverly orchestrated operation of removing a priceless item from the most securely guarded environments.
However, Hollywood perpetuates a flawed myth. Alastair Sooke of The Telegraph researched a far from glamorous, dark side of art theft: “pilfered art will accrue value on the black market. Typically, a stolen painting’s underworld currency will be between three and 10 per cent of its estimated legitimate value, as quoted in the media. (…) It could then be used as collateral, helping to finance drug deals, gun-running, tobacco trafficking, and other illicit activities. (…) “Since the introduction of money-laundering regulations, it has become unsafe for criminals to pay for their operations in cash,” says Dick Ellis, who set up the Art and Antiques Squad at New Scotland Yard. “With its black-market value, stolen art can easily be carried across international borders.” Keep that in mind next time you cheer the art thief in your favourite heist.

'Grey Gardens' estate sues Long Island gallery for owning stolen Jackie Kennedy painting

An East Hampton art gallery is being sued for owning a stolen portrait of Jackie Kennedy Onassis. The painting was featured in a 1998 Hamptons Magazine article.

An East Hampton art gallery is being sued for owning a stolen portrait of Jackie Kennedy Onassis. The painting was featured in a 1998 Hamptons Magazine article.

It’s the highest of high-society legal battles.
The estate of one of the “Grey Gardens” socialites has filed suit against an East Hampton art gallery, claiming that a decades-old portrait of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is in fact a stolen family heirloom.
Representatives of the late Edith (Little Edie) Bouvier Beale — one half of the reclusive, formerly wealthy mother-daughter duo whose lives were chronicled in the 1976 documentary — insist they have the rightful claim on the painting that went missing in the late 1960s.
Edith (Little Edie) Beale and Onassis were first cousins.
The target of the suit is Terry Wallace, an established East End art dealer who insists the painting legitimately belongs to him.
Wallace told the Daily News he has no intention of turning over the prized portrait without a fight.
“I have clear title to the painting and I have clear ownership of the painting,” he said.
Wallace says he bought the work in the “late 1980s from a very reputable antiques dealer.” But he stopped short of identifying the dealer.
The piece of art at the center of the high-brow legal brawl in Long Island federal court was painted in 1950 long before then-19-year-old Jacqueline Lee Bouvier met John F. Kennedy.
It was commissioned by the future First Lady’s father, John Vernou Bouvier III — a well-heeled stockbroker nicknamed “Black Jack” — and painted by Irwin Hoffman.
Neither side would put a price tag on the painting but that’s perhaps the only thing they agree on.
Before he died, Black Jack gave the portrait to his sister Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale, known as “Big Edie.”
Big Edie and Little Edie lived together at a decaying mansion in East Hampton known as Grey Gardens.

A 1941 photo shows Onassis walking down East Hampton and One Gracie Square in New York City.

A 1941 photo shows Onassis walking down East Hampton and One Gracie Square in New York City.

The lawsuit said there was at least one burglary in the 1960s or 1970s. But the Beales, who feuded with local officials, didn’t report the theft.
Before Little Edie's 2002 death in Florida at age 84, she reminded her nephew and future estate executor, that valuables like the painting were filched from Grey Gardens.
The suit said a 1998 Hamptons Magazine article showcased the portrait. Then in 2004, Beale’s nephew’s wife, Eva, spotted it at Wallace Gallery.
When she asked Wallace about the portrait's origins, he told her the same thing he would later tell The News — that it came from a dealer he refused to identify who had since died.
In 2016, Eva Beale found the 1998 article in Little Edie’s records and determined it was the stolen painting she was referring to years ago.
The suit was filed Thursday after Wallace rebuffed Beale's request to hand over the painting or at least provide information on its provenance.
“After the gallery repeatedly denied its requests for return of the Jackie portrait and for information about its provenance — information regularly provided to art buyers in the ordinary course of business — the Estate was forced to commence this action,” said Megan Noh, one of the estate's lawyers.
Noh called the portrait “a long-lost heirloom, a piece of the Bouvier family's legacy and, indeed, of American history.
“The family is very much looking forward to being reunited with it,” she added.
But Wallace said he wouldn't risk wrecking his business or reputation with questionable works after running his gallery for the past 25 years.
“If the painting was stolen, I would be the first one to give it back to them,” he said.

A Long-Lost Nigerian Masterpiece Found in a London Apartment Just Set a Record at Bonhams

Lost for decades, the rediscovered portrait was a hit at auction.
Ben Enwonwu, Tutu (1974). Courtesy of Bonhams London.
A long-lost masterpiece by Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu sold yesterday for £1.2 million ($1.67 million) at “Africa Now,” the first-ever evening sale of contemporary African art at Bonhams London. The 1974 painting, titled Tutu, depicts Adetutu Ademiluyi, a Nigerian royal princess. Hammered down to an anonymous phone bidder after a 20-minute bidding war, it is now the most expensive Nigerian Modernist work ever sold at auction.
The painting had been assumed lost for decades before the family that owned it invited a Bonhams specialist to appraise it late last year. “I was absolutely staggered when I first saw the piece. The owners, who had inherited it, had no idea of its current value,” Giles Peppiatt, the director of African art at Bonhams, told Nigerian novelist Ben Okri in the Financial Times.
The painting is “the most significant discovery in contemporary African art in over 50 years,” Okri wrote. “It is the only authentic Tutu, the equivalent of some rare archaeological find.”
Ben Enwonwu, <em>Tutu</em> (1973). The first of three <em>Tutu</em> paintings was stolen in 1994 and its whereabouts remain unknown. Courtesy of Bonhams London.
Ben Enwonwu, Tutu (1973). The first of three Tutu paintings was stolen in 1994 and its whereabouts remain unknown. Courtesy of Bonhams London.
Enwonwu tracked down the princess in the town of Ile-Ife and convinced the royal family to let him paint her portrait in 1974. The painting became a Nigerian icon, a sort of African Mona Lisa; poster reproductions hang on walls all over the country, according to the FT.
The pre-sale estimate for the work topped out at just £300,000 ($266,000). According to the artnet Price Database, the artist’s previous record at auction was £361,250 ($544,042) for a set of seven wooden sculptures commissioned by the Daily Mirror in 1960 and sold at Bonhams London in 2013.
These seven wooden sculptures commissioned from Ben Enwonwu by the <em>Daily Mirror</em> in 1960 previously held the artist's auction record. Photo courtesy of Bonhams London.
These seven wooden sculptures commissioned from Ben Enwonwu by the Daily Mirror
in 1960 previously held the artist’s auction record. Photo courtesy of Bonhams London.
Tutu was last publicly exhibited in 1975 at the Italian embassy in Lagos, and its whereabouts were unknown for decades. Enwonwu made three original Tutu works featuring Asemiluyi, of which this is the second. The other two have since been lost; the first version was stolen shortly before the artist’s death in 1994. (The sitter is believed to still be alive and living in Lagos, although members of her family are reportedly unsure of her exact whereabouts.)
“The portrait of Tutu is a national icon in Nigeria and of huge cultural significance. It is very exciting to have played a part in the discovery and sale of this remarkable work,” Peppiatt said in a statement. He said he has often been asked to examine Tutu works, but up until now they had all been prints.
Ben Enwonwu, <em>Tutu</em> (1974). Courtesy of Bonhams London.
Ben Enwonwu, Tutu (1974). Courtesy of Bonhams London.
Painted three years after the end of the Nigerian Civil War, Tutu was intended as an expression of national unity—the artist and the princess’s tribes had been on opposite sides of the conflict—and Enwonwu’s way of celebrating his country’s cultural identity. “He thought she epitomized what he was trying to push about Africa,” Oliver Enwonwu, the artist’s son, told the Guardian

'Stolen works' sentence of Picasso's electrician overturned

France's highest appeal court has overturned the conviction of Pablo Picasso's former electrician and his wife, who were given suspended sentences for keeping 271 of his works in their garage for four decades.
'Stolen works' sentence of Picasso's electrician overturned
'Stolen works' sentence of Picasso's electrician overturned
Pierre and Danielle Le Guennec were given two-year suspended jail sentences in 2015 for possession of stolen goods, in a case that made headlines worldwide.
A higher court upheld the verdict in 2016 but the Cour de Cassation, in a ruling seen by AFP Thursday, overturned it.
Ruling there was insufficient evidence that "the goods held by the suspects had been stolen" the court ordered a retrial.
The couple's lawyer Antoine Vey hailed the ruling.
"It's a great decision which reinforces the line that Le Guennecs have always upheld -- that there was no theft whatsoever."
The retrial will offer them "a huge opportunity to finally establish the truth", Vey said.
The collection, whose value has not been assessed, includes drawings of women and horses, nine rare Cubist collages from the time Picasso was working with fellow French artist Georges Braque and a work from his famous "blue period".
At his original trial Le Guennec, who is in his late seventies, claimed that Picasso had presented him with the artworks towards the end of his life to reward him for his loyal service.
But he later changed his account, telling the appeal court that the works were part of a huge trove of art that Picasso's widow Jacqueline asked him to conceal after the artist's death in 1973.
Le Guennec said he stored more than a dozen garbage bags of unsigned works which Jacqueline later retrieved, except for one which she left him saying: "Keep this, it's for you."
The affair came to light when Pierre Le Guennec attempted to get the works authenticated by Picasso's son Claude Ruiz-Picasso in 2010.
The artist's heirs promptly filed a complaint against him, triggering an investigation.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Stolen Art Watch, Bulmer Trial June 2018, Hatton Garden Death Sentence, Night Prowler & Van Gogh Recap,

Hatton Garden burglar dies in prison

BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE Undated Metropolitan Police handout photo of Hatton Garden burglar Terry Perkins, 69, who has died in HMP Belmarsh.
 Undated Metropolitan Police handout photo of Hatton Garden burglar Terry Perkins, 69, who has died in HMP Belmarsh.

One of the £14m Hatton Garden jewellery raiders, Terry Perkins, has died in prison aged 69.
Perkins from Enfield, north London, was serving a jail term for the "largest burglary in English legal history".
One of four ringleaders of the 2015 raid, he was last week ordered to pay back £6,526,571 or face a further seven-year jail term.
Perkins and his fellow raiders stole goods after drilling into a vault at London's Hatton Garden Safe Deposit.
He was serving his sentence in HMP Belmarsh and is believed to have been ill for some time.
In a statement, the Prison Service said: "As with all deaths in custody, there will be an independent investigation by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman."
Perkins was jailed for seven years, alongside two of the ringleaders, John "Kenny" Collins, 77, and Daniel Jones, 63, after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary in 2016.
Fellow ringleader Brian Reader, 78, who was too ill to attend the initial sentencing, was later jailed for six years and three months.
'Severe heart failure'
Last Tuesday, the gang members were ordered to pay back £27.5m between them or have their sentences increased.
Judge Christopher Kinch QC said the men jointly benefitted from an estimated £13.69m worth of stolen cash, gold and gems, but the value of the items could have been much higher.
Peter Rowlands, Perkins' barrister, said his client - who had been diagnosed with "severe heart failure" - would have to serve the extra time as there was "no prospect" of any further funds being recovered.
During last week's hearing, the judge said if any of the four could raise £6.4m to pay back, the others would each have that total taken off their confiscation order.
If that were the case it would bring the total amount paid back by the burglars to about £8.2m.
Perkins was caught after Hatton Garden investigators installed a listening device in his blue Citroen Saxo, on which he was recorded saying he planned to use his share of the spoils to fund his pension.
He was arrested with Collins and Jones, having dropped off a holdall containing some of the loot.
Perkins celebrated his birthday during the raid and was involved in all stages of the operation, including disposing of the stolen goods.
He was inside the Hatton Garden building posing as a builder and "working" inside the lift on 31 March during the raid, which was carried out over the Easter weekend in 2015.
When his home was searched police found jewellery, cash, blue workman's overalls and five pairs of white fabric gloves that were used by the burglars who aimed to leave no forensic evidence at the scene.

Mystery Hatton Garden raider Basil urged to hand back £6.5m of loot as fellow blaggers handed longer jail sentences

A source said: 'The others are desperate for him to hand back a good percentage of it or else they will die in prison.'
MYSTERY Hatton Garden raider Basil is being urged by his fellow blaggers to hand back millions of pounds worth of booty under his control after they were given longer jail sentences.
Heist ringleaders Brian Reader, 78, Terry Perkins, 69, and John ‘Kenny’ Collins, 77, were given effective death sentences last week when they were ordered by a court to jointly hand back £6.45million of spoils from the safe deposit centre break-in.
Along with fellow main player Danny Jones, 63, they must stump up the money between them or each serve the whole of a seven-year default sentence under the confiscation order.
Coming on top of the seven years they are already serving for the £14 million Hatton Garden burglary, it is equivalent to the gang now serving 21-year jail sentences for the heist.
It is understood that Reader, 78, and Perkins, 69, who are both suffering major health injuries in jail, are the only gang members to know Basil’s identify.
They are said to be trying to get a message to him through a trusted confidante to persuade him to give back a large share of the treasure under his control.
Reader, nicknamed ‘The Master,’ lost out on the raid takings after pulling out when the gang failed to break into the vault on a first occasion during the Easter bank holiday of 2015.
Other gang members successfully broke in the following night but Perkins was caught red-handed by cops with his share of the spoils six weeks later.
Crafty Basil, who carefully concealed his face from CCTV cameras, was the only member of the gang to get away with the raid.
Basil ended up with three suitcases of jewellery and gold bars and is believed to have grabbed treasures in hiding after the Flying Squad pounced.
The elusive blingo blagger, thought to be a South London villain in his 70’s, is thought to be keeping a low profile in Spain.
But he is now being urged to come to the rescue of his criminal accomplices.
Reader, Perkins, Collins and Jones all own property in Britain and abroad.
And Collins also has £500,000 in a bank account.
But a source told The Sun on Sun: “Their joint assets don’t come to anywhere near the money they to find.
“Basil ended up with the lion’s share of the dough.
“The others are desperate for him to hand back a good percentage of it back or else they will die in prison.
“There is no way Brian, Terry or Kenny will survive it.
“They had been due to get out at the end of summer this year on the burglary sentences but that is now looking like a pipe dream.”
Detectives are hopeful the prospect of an extra seven years could entice either Reader or Perkins to name Basil.
However, former gang boss and blagger Fred Foreman, involved in the 1983 Security Express cash robbery with Perkins, said : “There is no way they will ever give up any names.
“They are both solid reliable men otherwise they wouldn’t have been on that job.”
Basil, in his 70s, is thought to be in Spain.

Men deny involvement in Bulmers cider family multimillion-pound artwork burglary

Susie and Esmond Bulmer outside their home (Aleisha Scott/PA)
Susie and Esmond Bulmer outside their home (Aleisha Scott/PA)
Eleven men have denied offences linked to a burglary in which millions of pounds worth of artwork and antique jewellery were stolen.
The raid was at the palatial home of Esmond and Susie Bulmer, members of the Bulmers cider family, in Bruton, Somerset in 2009.
During the incident £1.7 million worth of paintings and £1 million of antique jewellery were taken.
A total of 15 paintings were stolen, including the famous Endymion by 19th century English painter George Frederic Watts and Apple Blossom by early 20th century English artist Sir George Clausen.
All the paintings have been recovered, except for Sir John Lavery’s After Glow Taplow.
On Wednesday, 11 men appeared at Bristol Crown Court to deny a string of offences, including conspiracy to burgle and conspiracy to receive stolen goods.
Those charged are:
– Liam Judge, 41, of Crypt Court, Tuffley, Gloucester, who pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to burgle.
– Matthew Evans, 41, of Coral Close, Tuffley, Gloucester, who pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to burgle.
– Skinder Ali, 38, whose address was listed on court papers as HMP Full Sutton in Yorkshire, and who pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to burgle and conspiracy to receive stolen goods. He appeared in court via videolink from prison.
– Jonathan Rees, 63, of Village Close, Weybridge, Surrey, who pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to defraud and committing a series of acts intending to pervert the course of justice.
– Donald Maliska, 63, of Old Brompton Road, London, who pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to receive stolen goods and conspiracy to defraud. Maliska was excused attending court and pleas were entered on his behalf by his barrister.
– Mark Regan, 45, whose address was listed on court papers as HMP Long Lartin in Worcestershire, and who pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to receive stolen goods. He appeared in court via videolink from prison.
– David Price, 53, of Virginia Court, Camden, London, who pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to receive stolen goods and conspiracy to defraud.
– Ike Obiamiwe, 55, of The Drive, Sutton, Surrey, who pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to receive stolen goods and conspiracy to defraud.
– Thomas Lynch, 43, of St Benedict’s Road, Small Heath, Birmingham, who pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to receive stolen goods.
– Nigel Blackburn, 60, of Broad Street, Birmingham, who pleaded not guilty to controlling criminal property.
– Azhar Mir, 65, of Bufferys Close, Hillfield, Solihull, West Midlands, who pleaded not guilty to controlling criminal property.
The 11 defendants will face trial on June 4 at Bristol Crown Court for a case that could last up to two months.
Judge Julian Lambert released Ali and Regan on technical unconditional bail while their co-accused were all released on unconditional bail.
Mr Bulmer was Conservative MP for Kidderminster from 1974 to 1983. He was MP for Wyre Forest from 1983 until the general election of 1987 when he stepped down.
The art collector and his family made £84 million when they sold their stake in the family’s Hereford-based cider-making business.
Bulmers was founded in 1887 by Percy Bulmer, the 20-year-old son of a local Hereford clergyman.

Hatton Garden heist ringleaders’ likely to pay back fraction of £27.5m order

The four ringleaders behind the Hatton Garden raid – ordered to pay back £27.5 million or each face another seven years in jail – will likely end up paying only a fraction of the order.
John “Kenny” Collins, 77, Daniel Jones, 63, and Terry Perkins, 69, are serving seven-year sentences, while Brian Reader, 78, is serving six years and three months in jail, for their roles in the notorious burglary.
Judge Christopher Kinch QC said each jointly benefited from an estimated £13.69 million worth of cash, gold and gems stolen from boxes at Hatton Garden Safe Deposit in London’s jewellery quarter after a drill was used to bore a hole into the vault wall.
The men were told if they fail to pay a total of £27.5 million, each will have seven years added onto their current jail sentences, which could mean that some of the gang members, who are unwell, die behind bars.
But the Crown Prosecution Service, responding to the confiscation hearing at Woolwich Crown Court on Tuesday, said if one of the four paid an amount of nearly £6.5 million it would come off all their bills.
It means that if the figure of nearly £6.5 million is paid, the total amount recovered will likely be £8.2 million – significantly lower than the £27.5 million total value of the order set out in court.
Handing down his ruling, the judge said: “A number of these defendants are not only of a certain age, but have in some cases serious health problems.
“But as a matter of principle and policy it is very difficult to endorse any approach that there is a particular treatment for someone who chooses to go out and commit offences at the advanced stage of their lives that some of these defendants were.”
Collins, of Bletsoe Walk, Islington, north London, was ordered to pay £7,686,039 after the court heard he had assets in “liquid form” and property in this jurisdiction and abroad.

Brian Reader is likely to die in prison, his lawyer said (Police/PA) 
Brian Reader is likely to die in prison, his lawyer said (Police/PA)
Perkins, of Heene Road, Enfield, was told he must pay £6,526,571.
His barrister Peter Rowlands said Perkins’ flat in Portugal would have to be sold, but said his client, who has been diagnosed with “severe heart failure”, would have to serve the default sentence as there was “no prospect” of any further funds being recovered.
Jones of Park Avenue, Enfield, north London, was ordered to hand over £6,649,827.
His barrister Graham Trembath QC said Jones’ only assets were cash in a bank account and he “will have to serve the default term”.
Reader, who was not in court, was told he must pay back £6,644,951, including the sale of his £639,800 home and development land worth £533,000.
Tom Wainwright, representing Reader, said his client’s sentence “does not have to be very long for it to mean, in reality, he will serve the rest of his life in custody”.
Crown Prosecution Service spokesman Nick Price, speaking after the hearing, said: “These defendants were involved in one of the most notorious burglaries of recent times and much of the property that was stolen has not been returned to its owners. Some defendants will have to return the money to their victims as compensation.
“If further funds or assets of the defendants become available, the CPS will ask the court to increase these confiscation orders until the full benefit figure has been paid.
“The group’s default sentences will meant that if the defendants do not pay their confiscation orders, they will have extra time added to their prison terms.”

Hatton Garden loot will be put up for sale
Almost £700,000 worth of jewellery stolen in the Hatton Garden raid will be put up for sale at a public auction.
The items are part of a £4.3 million haul seized by police following the £13.69 million burglary at Hatton Garden Safe Deposit in London’s jewellery quarter.
Some £3,635,000 of the loot – stolen from boxes after a drill was used to bore a hole into the vault wall – has been identified and will be returned to its rightful owners.
But the rest of the recovered jewellery, made up of less distinctive items such as gold chains, cannot be claimed by any of around 40 people who lost out in the heist.
On Friday, a Metropolitan Police spokesman confirmed the goods – worth an estimated £689,233 – will be sold off at public auction, but the auctioneer and date of the sale are yet to be decided.
The proceeds will go to the victims of the burglary and the amount raised will also be deducted from the massive confiscation order levelled at the four ringleaders behind the raid.
It is understood that either the police or the court service will put the contract up for tender to find an auctioneer to sell the items.
The plans first emerged at a confiscation hearing at Woolwich Crown Court this week, where the men were told they must pay back sums ranging between £6.5 million and £7.6 million – a total of £27.5 million – or each face another seven years in jail.
John “Kenny” Collins, 77, Daniel Jones, 63, and Terry Perkins, 69, are already serving seven-year sentences, while Brian Reader, 78, is serving six years and three months in jail.
The Crown Prosecution Service said if one of the four paid an amount of nearly £6.5 million it would come off all their bills, meaning the total recoverable amount is likely to be only £8.2 million.
They will have to hand over cash and sell properties in the UK, Spain and Portugal to pay back some of the money.
But the court heard some of the men cannot pay their bills and will have to serve their extended sentences
Their ages and various health problems mean they could die behind bars.
The gang ransacked 73 boxes in the raid (PA)
Judge Christopher Kinch QC said the total value of goods stolen was £13,690,331, while the value of stolen property seized by police was £4,324,437.
In his ruling, he said: “Of the items in the possession of the police, property worth £3,635,204 has been identified to a sufficient degree to warrant its restoration to individual victims of the burglary.
“That property is now available to be restored. The police also have property to the value of £689,233 which cannot be accurately or safely identified (for example generic gold chains lacking in individual identifying features).
“As things stand, that property may end up being sold at auction to realise a sum that can be distributed.”

Kate Moss painting to sell under Proceeds of Crime Act

A celebrity art dealer who stole nearly £500,000 worth of artwork owns just a half-share in a Kate Moss painting and a £50 car, a court has heard.
Jonathan Poole, 70, who represented the art estates of John Lennon and Ronnie Wood, was jailed last year.
He made over £435,000 in 30 years, selling artwork he was not entitled to or taking percentages of profits.
But at a Proceeds of Crime hearing, Gloucester Crown Court heard his assets were worth just £15,050.
The thefts were made between 1986 and 2013 from British collectors including Dire Straits' bass guitarist John Illsley and a German art dealer.
The stolen items included paintings of Princess Diana, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan and Bono.
Prosecutors dubbed the case the Jonathan Poole Affair, after the hit Hollywood film The Thomas Crown Affair.
At a proceeds of crime hearing on Tuesday it was revealed Poole's only assets were a £50 scrap car and a painting he part-owned of model Kate Moss by German artist Sebastian Kruger, estimated to be worth £30,000.

'Wins the lottery'

Prosecutors said they were not bothered about recouping the value of the car but asked the hearing to be adjourned for six months so Poole's share in the Kate Moss painting could be bought out or the artwork sold outright.
James Ward, prosecuting, said: "In reality, unless Mr Poole comes into real money or wins the lottery the police would not come after him for further money."
Poole, who was not represented and appeared by videolink, confirmed he would not be challenging the prosecution's figures and agreed to the Kruger painting being sold.
The hearing was adjourned until 20 July.

Police probe links between 'Night Watcher' and 'Wimbledon Prowler' as detectives fear soldier burglar is same man who carried out crime spree over 12 years in south London

A "highly professional" armed burglar responsible for several multi-million pound raids in the Home Counties may be linked to a prolific intruder known as the 'Wimbledon Prowler', police said.
The violent thief dubbed 'The Night Watcher' has carried out at least seven burglaries since November 2014 and is said to be an expert in covert surveillance.
Surrey Police said his meticulous research, athletic ability and use of a sawn-off shotgun made them think he could have an armed forces background.
And Detective Inspector Dan O'Sullivan told the Standard the burglar bore striking similarities to the unsolved case of the Prowler, a thief responsible​ for a 12-year series of raids in south west London.

Police are hunting a 'professional' armed burglar, pictured here at a house in Maidenhead (PA)
He said he saw similarities in the "high level of planning" and "reconnaissance" used by both individuals.
The Prowler is known for his ability to dismantle security alarms, dodge homeowners and scale properties.
He has stolen cash and valuables worth up to £10 million from up to 200 homes.
Meanwhile, the Night Watcher is believed to spend weeks staking out addresses to track the movements of his potential victims.

Burglary: The Wimbledon Prowler bends over a safe before making off with it
The thief is also thought to have entered some homes prior to the raids to understand their layouts.
Victims have suffered beatings by the thief and claim to have been tied up by him during the raids.
In each of the seven raids, the burglar has been alone. He is said to use a sawn-off shotgun and shows willingness to use violence to threaten victims, even when children are at home.
He has targeted high-value jewellery and other valuables netting goods worth at least £1 million from each of the seven raids linked to him, although police believe he may have carried out further burglaries where residents were not at home at the time.

CCTV: Scotland Yard want to identify the man pictured in 2008 (Metropolitan Police)
Surrey Police have released a description of the lone raider as white, stocky or muscular build, about 6ft tall with a south of England accent.
And the Scotland Yard officer said he is liaising with police investigating the Night Watcher to see if there is a link between the two individuals.
He said: "There are similarities about how he conducts reconnaissance - about how he sits and watches.
"If someone sits and watches in a garden for a number of hours there is a similarity [with the Prowler]."
Commenting on resemblances with the Night Watcher's "professional" techniques, he said that the Prowler was a "disciplined individual".
He said: "He may or may not be from the military but we don't develop those disciplines overnight."
The cat burglar has been targeting homes in the affluent part of south west London since 2006.
The man cases houses, disables security systems, and uses lockpicks to gain entry into homes to ransack them.
Victims have included former footballer Nicolas Anelka, who chased the man across his garden, and tennis champion Boris Becker. The intruder also often targets homes more than once.
At his peak the Prowler reportedly carried out 20 raids in four months, but he is not believed to have struck this winter.
In a three-year period between November 2014 and October 2017, the Night Watcher, who left little forensic evidence, carried out seven raids - two in Kingswood, Surrey, and others in Maidenhead, Berkshire; Chichester, West Sussex, Sevenoaks, Kent; Maidstone, Kent, and Virginia Water, Surrey.

Dealer of works stolen by Jasper Johns's assistant can be charged with racketeering, court rules

The decision adds another wrinkle to the unsettled case law surrounding liability in art fraud

A Manhattan district court has ruled in favour of the Equinox Gallery of Vancouver, Canada in its civil suit against the New York art dealer Fred Dorfman, who was implicated in a scheme to sell stolen work by the US artist Jasper Johns, but who has never faced criminal charges. Equinox alleges that Dorfman was involved in racketeering activity when he sold the gallery a stolen painting for $800,000 in 2008. In a 25 January ruling, Judge George B. Daniels wrote that the Canadian gallery can seek a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) claim against Dorfman.
Equinox's complaint alleges that Dorfman, who runs Dorfman+ gallery in Chelsea, knowingly sold around 37 unfinished or discarded works that Johns' former assistant, James Meyer, stole from his employer's studio in Sharon, Connecticut, between the 1990s and 2012—sometimes taking pieces directly from the trash. Meyer claimed they were personal gifts from the artist and worked with Dorfman to sell them, making around $9m. In 2015, Meyer pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months in prison and restitution.
While Dorfman has said he was also a victim of Meyer’s fraud, Equinox alleges he instigated the entire scheme. After meeting Meyer, the judge's decision states, "Dorfman embarked on a campaign to convince Meyer to allow him to represent the latter as an independent artist. What Meyer did not know, however, was that Dorfman never intended to represent him or his interests, but rather sought only to use him to gain access to Jasper Johns' artwork." The ruling adds that Dorfman sought to pass off the works as authentic and with good title by getting Meyer to sign affidavits that they were gifts, creating counterfeit labels that made it seem Johns authorised their sale, and assuring prospective buyers in writing that the works would be included in the Jasper Johns catalogue raisonne and recorded in his archives. In its suit, the gallery accuses Dorfman of mail fraud, wire fraud, and interstate transport of stolen goods.
According to the ruling, Dorfman can be sued for triple damages ($2.4m) and attorney fees. The judge also found that the allegations provided sufficient grounds for a jury to award Equinox punitive damages.
“I dispute each and every allegation that accuses me of any and all wrongdoing,” Dorfman said in an email. Dorfman's lawyer, Gerald Di Chiara, says, "We are pleased that one cause of action [break of warranty] was dismissed," adding that "now it is a very triable case since Dorfman was not part of a fraud."
Several recent fraud cases have grappled with the responsibility of confirming proper title, with the onus usually falling to the buyer of the work to perform due diligence before the sale. This ruling suggests that standard may not apply to all cases. "The Court here was clear that the law doesn't require a victim of art fraud to establish that it went through some specific formulaic diligence procedure before agreeing to a deal," says Judd Grossman, of Grossman LLP, the firm representing Equinox in the case. He adds: "Reasonable reliance can look different depending on the specifics of a case."

Ronald Lauder Takes Germany To Task Over Lack of Action on Art Restitution

Fate of Düsseldorf exhibition on Jewish art dealer Max Stern, still without a start date, appears to be mired in local politics

Last night Ronald Lauder, the American businessman, art collector, and president of the World Jewish Congress, demanded that Germany do more to address Nazi-era art theft, a subject that, 73 years after the end of World War II, is still far from being resolved.
At the Axel Springer Journalists Club in Berlin, Lauder hosted an event to mark the beginning of the 20th-anniversary year of the Washington Declaration. In signing the 1998 pact, Germany, along with 43 other nations and 13 nongovernmental organizations, voluntarily committed itself to the recovery of art stolen by the Nazis or forcibly sold under Third Reich duress.
Lauder was direct in his criticism of the current state of restitution in Germany. He preceded his remarks by saying, “I may not be welcome here after what I say, but I think it is best to be completely honest with all of you.”
“The fact that we are still dealing with this topic is simply not acceptable,” said Lauder. “If Nazi-Germany had not stolen so much Jewish owned art in the first place, we would all be doing something else tonight.”
He pushed for action, remarking that “Germany has promised much, but has, so far, done the bare minimum to solve this problem.”
In last night’s audience was Düsseldorf mayor Thomas Geisel whose recent controversial actions Lauder alluded to with his remark that among those to blame are “local politicians who cancel long-planned exhibitions for either political gains or other reasons.”
One of 2017’s most disturbing art world events happened last November, when Geisel abruptly canceled “Max Stern: From Düsseldorf to Montreal,” an exhibition about the life of one of the city’s renowned Jewish art dealers and his persecution by the Gestapo, who forced him to sell more than 200 paintings in 1937. Among his reasons for terminating the show, which was to have opened this week at the city’s Stadtmuseum, Geisel cited claims against the city by Max Stern’s estate.

Max Stern in Germany around 1925.
On December 21, just one month later, Geisel did an about-face following an outpouring of international anger. He announced that the exhibition was back on in Düsseldorf, and that it would travel to Haifa, Israel, as originally planned, and then on to the McCord Museum in Montreal (where Stern settled after he fled Düsseldorf) in 2019.
In the wake of the cancellation, Geisel’s most influential and effective critic has arguably been Lauder, who in a statement released by the World Jewish Congress on November 29, remarked, “Considering the fact that the current German government has made tremendous progress in regard to provenance research, canceling this exhibit would be a major setback, especially for the victims of the Holocaust and their heirs.”
On the same day that Lauder made this comment, Hagen Philipp Wolf, speaking on behalf of the German culture minister, Monika Grütters, condemned Düsseldorf’s termination of the Stern exhibition, calling the decision “beyond regrettable” and adding that “exhibitions aimed at confronting Nazi wrongs are more necessary than ever at the current time.”
One of the exhibitions Grütters was referring to was “Nazi Art Theft and Its Consequences,” which opened on November 3 in Düsseldorf’s neighboring city, Bonn, to spotlight the 2013 discovery of more than 1,500 works—many owned by persecuted Jews—hidden for decades by Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of a Nazi art dealer. Grütters described the Gurlitt show as a manifestation of her commitment to “how important research into this bitter chapter of Nazi policy remains.”
While the Stern exhibition has been reinstated, questions remain about whether it will ever come to fruition. On Tuesday, Mayor Geisel told ARTnews by phone that a fixed date for the show is yet to be determined. In addition to Geisel’s reluctance to state the show’s exact time (though “a tentative date of November 29, 2018” has been given for a symposium on Stern, to take place at the Stadtmuseum), he explained that the vision for the exhibition will be “modified” and it will involve a new, yet-unnamed curator.
According to Dr. Willi Korte, the Bavarian-born, Washington-based lawyer, historian, and internationally renowned restitution and provenance expert, Geisel’s announcement that he was reinstating the exhibition may likely be “a fig leaf,” one that was put in place as a political maneuver to “stop all the bleeding following the cancellation.”
Lauder has a more diplomatic view. He told ARTnews by email Wednesday, prior to his Journalists Club speech in Berlin, “I welcome the Mayor’s decision to reopen the Max Stern exhibition. Now, it will be of fundamental importance that the city of Düsseldorf design a concept that convinces the international partners in Canada and Israel to reengage—as was the case with the original plans.”

Wilhelm von Schadow’s Self Portrait of the Artist, 1805.
The genesis of “Max Stern: From Düsseldorf to Montreal” was the Stadtmuseum’s April 2014 restitution of Self-Portrait of the Artist by the 19th-century Romantic painter Friedrich Wilhelm von Schadow. An early director of the Düsseldorf Academy, von Schadow shaped one of Europe’s most famous art schools, the alma mater of Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter, and Andreas Gursky.
The Stern estate located the painting in the catalogue for “The Hudson on the Rhine,” a 1976 exhibition at the Dusseldorf Kunstmuseum of mid-19th-century American artists who had attended von Schadow’s academy. The estate tracked down the painting at the Stadtmuseum, which was unaware of the work’s tainted provenance.
Self-Portrait of the Artist was among the paintings that Stern put up for sale on November 13, 1937, after Nazi law deemed him incapable of promoting German culture because he was Jewish. Faced with no other option, Stern liquidated the inventory of his family’s well-regarded Rhine Valley art dealership, the Galerie Stern. He listed the items at depressed prices in sale No. 392 at Cologne’s Third Reich–approved auction house Lempertz—infamous for trafficking “non-Aryan property” and where Cornelius Gurlitt sold a work by Max Beckmann in 2011.
After escaping Germany, Stern settled first in London, then in Montreal, where he rebuilt his life and became director of the Dominion Gallery of Fine Art. Stern never saw a penny from the Lempertz sale; its proceeds were ransomed by the Nazis to obtain his mother’s exit visa to leave Germany.
After Stern’s death in 1987, his heirs, and Montreal’s Concordia and McGill Universities, and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, learned of the dealer’s losses during the Nazi era, including the art that he sold under duress in 1937—facts that Stern had never discussed during his lifetime. (Having no family, Stern left his estate to three universities.)
To break Stern’s silence, his executors established the Max Stern Art Restitution Project “to meaningfully address his losses,” said Clarence Epstein, the organization’s director. Today, the initiative is one of the world’s most notable programs investigating Holocaust-era cultural theft. Since three universities run the project, all proceeds from the sale of any restituted works go back to the organization. “We are a perpetual plaintiff,” said Epstein. “Our goal is to put Max Stern back into the cultural narrative by reclaiming his art, no matter what its current market value is, to further the study of Nazi-era art restitution.”
Epstein’s message resonated with Dr. Susanne Anna, director at the Stadtmuseum. At the restitution ceremony for von Schadow’s Self-Portrait of the Artist in 2014, she stated before an auditorium packed with international media that her museum would organize an exhibition examining the place of Stern and his gallery in Düsseldorf’s cultural life before the Nazis erased the names of Jewish art dealers from the city’s history.
To put together the exhibition, Anna recruited the world’s leading Stern experts: the National Gallery of Canada archivist Philip Dombowsky (who manages all of Stern’s papers, including those he took with him while escaping Germany) and Montreal professor Dr. Catherine Mackenzie, who curated an exhibition on the 1937 Lempertz sale in which Stern liquidated his assets. Dr. Anna worked on the show for three years, forging partnerships with Haifa’s Museum of Art and Montreal’s McCord Museum, the venues for the exhibition following Düsseldorf.
Although Mayor Geisel has committed to reinstating the Stern exhibition, its vision and mandate will differ from what Dr. Anna had planned. In the days following Geisel’s cancellation of the exhibition he explained that its curatorial focus was not “balanced enough” because of its heavy reliance on Canadian scholarship.

Thomas Geisel, the mayor of Düsseldorf.
Geisel told ARTnews that “one or two more [curatorial] personalities” need to be added to the exhibition team “for balance.” Yet there are no leading scholars on Stern in Germany, the country he was forced to flee. Stern took his life, possessions, and papers to Canada, which became a stronghold for study on him. Until Geisel announces the show’s new curatorial additions, its scope and vision remain unresolved.
If, as Lauder points out, a key component of ensuring the exhibition’s success lies in convincing Düsseldorf’s international partners to reengage, the likelihood of the exhibition taking place at all is low. The Stadtmuseum has contacted neither Dombowsky nor Mackenzie as to what role, if any, they might play in the newly conceived exhibition.
“I am still hoping to be instrumental in bringing the story of the Stern family in various art worlds to the attention of an audience in Germany that would, I believe, find it fascinating,” Mackenzie said. She added, however, that “there has not been confirmation from [Düsseldorf’s] cultural department of funding for the revived project, funding for the earlier success of which was fractured by the cancellation. It is [also] unclear what the relationship is intended to be between the symposium and the reinstated exhibition.”
Last Thursday and Friday Mayor Geisel visited North America. His itinerary included New York and Washington, D.C., where he met with his most outspoken critics, including Georgetown University professor and lecturer in theology and fine arts Dr. Ori Z. Soltes and Marc Masurovsky, co-founder of the Washington-based Holocaust Art Restitution Project. Conspicuously absent from the mayor’s trip was a stop in Montreal. “This leaves a lot of unanswered questions,” said Soltes. “While Geisel may have many strong intentions to see the exhibition happen, there are key details that need to be filled in before this can happen, including how he will work with the Max Stern Restitution Project.”
Epstein told ARTnews he will comment on this subject once he receives a report from Düsseldorf as to how the reinstated exhibition will unfold. “As with any international exhibition that has been publicly announced, by now there should be concrete information about its proposed timing, scope, funding, organization, catalogue, and curators,” he said. “Yet on all of these matters, we await information and answers.” In the meantime, the Restitution Project continues to focus on its core mission: recovering paintings that were stolen from Stern.

Max Stern.
This controversy is the central one when it comes to whether or not the Stern exhibition will happen. “It all comes down to the fact that while there are many Germans who want to do what is morally correct and return Nazi-looted art,” said Epstein, “according to the country’s civil law, property cannot be reclaimed more than 30 years after it was lost or stolen.” Nazi-era art restitution in Germany has been particularly challenging since the door to reclaiming works through German courts shut in 1975.
“Keep in mind that Geisel first said he canceled the exhibition because Max Stern’s estate has claims against the city of Düsseldorf,” said Epstein. “Claims that the city rejects.” Lauder noted in his November 29 statement that it was absurd that the city’s officials justified their cancellation of the exhibition “because victims of Nazi art loot[ing] and their heirs are still looking for their property.”
If Korte is correct in his characterization of the reinstatement of the exhibition as a “fig leaf,” it is likely that the show’s planning is being dragged out intentionally. This would allow the Stern exhibition to serve as a smoke screen for Geisel, something he can use so as to appear sympathetic toward recovering art stolen during the Nazi era while holding power in a city “that has deep ties to German industry,” said Korte, “and a record of being unsympathetic toward restitution claims.” (Geisel is expected to seek reelection in 2020.)
As Lauder made clear in his address last night, while the Washington Declaration was a historical landmark, the pact has never been legally binding. When it comes to addressing restitution in Germany, he said, “the huge gap between official announcements and actual deeds must end.”
It remains to be seen whether Lauder’s most recent criticisms will have an effect in Düsseldorf. “Lauder’s words already once significantly affected Geisel’s thinking,” said Epstein. “Hopefully, his comments last night will make a renewed impact on the mayor.”

How art thieves behind the infamous £80million Van Gogh heist could have traded the stolen paintings for drugs or arms on the black market (but only for TEN PER CENT of their true value)

  • Priceless paintings by Van Gogh were stolen from Amsterdam museum in 2002
  • Seascape at Scheveningen and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen were taken in under four minutes 
  • Octave Durham and accomplice Henk Bieslijn were convicted of the heist 
  • But the now untraceable artworks had long since been sold on the black market
  • Some 14 years later they were discovered concealed in an Italian mafia hideout  
  • The FBI has described the heist as one of the top 10 art crimes of all time 
When a pair of burglars escaped from Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum on a frosty December morning in 2002 with two of the artist's priceless 19th Century paintings in tow, it sent shock waves through the art world. 
But despite pulling off a theft the FBI called one of the top 10 art crimes of all time - and in less than four minutes - Octave Durham and his accomplice Henk Bieslijn still had work to do.
They now found themselves in possession of two paintings that were valued by investigators at a combined £80million, but were impossible to sell through ordinary channels - given that any attempt to do so would immediately link them to the heist of the century.
Now a new documentary, Stealing Van Gogh, has revealed how Durham and Bieslijn's links to the criminal underworld allowed them to get the red-hot spoils of their audacious raid off their hands for a jaw-dropping sum - albeit one far less than the paintings were actually worth. 
In it, independent arts crime investigator Arthur Brand explains how stolen art is used as a 'bank note' to be traded for arms or drugs in the criminal underworld - with a 'standard value' of 10 per cent of the figure it would fetch on the open market.
Presenter Andrew Graham-Dixon pieced together the story of the two paintings in BBC Two documentary Stealing Van Gogh
Presenter Andrew Graham-Dixon pieced together the story of the two paintings in BBC Two documentary Stealing Van Gogh
The two thieves - Octave Durham and his accomplice Henk Bieslijn - climbed a ladder and smashed a window
They then escaped down the front of the building
The two thieves - Octave Durham and his accomplice Henk Bieslijn - climbed a ladder (left) and smashed a window. They then escaped down the front of the building (right)
They had tied a rope around a flagpole before the theft, and climbed down it after grabbing the two paintings, but they made a mistake - leaving behind a hat with DNA on it
They had tied a rope around a flagpole before the theft, and climbed down it after grabbing the two paintings, but they made a mistake - leaving behind a hat with DNA on it
Presenter and art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon pieced together the story of the two paintings, and explored the wider world of art crime in the BBC Two documentary Stealing Van Gogh 
Seascape at Sheveningen, painted in 1882, and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen, which is dated between 1884 and 1885, were taken from Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum on December 7 2002 by thieves who climbed on to the roof, used sledgehammers to smash reinforced security glass, and swiped the two artworks closest to the hole they'd made - escaping via a rope tied to a flagpole less than four minutes later.
Video playing bottom right...
Octave Durham, pictured, along with his accomplice Henk Bieslijn were behind the 2002 theft
Octave Durham, pictured, along with his accomplice Henk Bieslijn were behind the 2002 theft
It would be some 14 years before they were finally recovered, almost 2,000km away in a mafia hideout in Naples, Italy.  
At the time of the heist, neither painting had ever been sold, meaning they had no market value, but investigators estimated the value of the stolen works at £80million.  
According to Brand's insight, this would suggest the criminals had £8million in black market goods on their hands. 
Indeed, police who tapped the duo's phones after DNA matching that of the convicted crooks' on hats left at the scene of the crime on December 7 2002, heard conversations about money that indicated they had sold the paintings on by 2003 or 2004. 
Evidence suggested the pair went on to splurge on luxury watches, cars, and trips to New York and Disneyland Paris, proving the fact the paintings were stolen did not prevent them exchanging hands for cash.  
'The art world and the criminal world are far more incorporated than people think,' Brand said in the documentary. 
View of the Sea at Scheveningen (pictured) was one of two oil painting by Vincent Van Gogh worth millions of dollars which was snatched by thieves on December 7, 2002
View of the Sea at Scheveningen (pictured) was one of two oil painting by Vincent Van Gogh worth millions of dollars which was snatched by thieves on December 7, 2002
Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen was the other oil painting that was stolen, portraying the village where Van Gogh's parents lived
Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen was the other oil painting that was stolen, portraying the village where Van Gogh's parents lived
The paintings eventually ended up in Italy, where they were discovered secreted behind a false wall inside a Camorra safe house in Naples (pictured)
The paintings eventually ended up in Italy, where they were discovered secreted behind a false wall inside a Camorra safe house in Naples (pictured)
'Stolen art goes from hand to hand very quickly, it is used as a bank note in the criminal underworld. They use it for trading arms, drugs…
'The standard value is ten per cent. It means if you steal a painting worth £10million you can use it as a bank note for £1million - ten percent of the value on the open market,' he said. 
While they were stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the paintings eventually ended up in Italy, secreted behind a false wall inside a Camorra safe house in Naples.   
Independent arts crime investigator Arthur Brand was one of the men on the trail of the missing artworks, and explained how paintings can become valuable currency
Independent arts crime investigator Arthur Brand was one of the men on the trail of the missing artworks, and explained how paintings can become valuable currency
They were recovered in 2016, 14 years after the original theft, and returned to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam
They were recovered in 2016, 14 years after the original theft, and returned to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam
An elite art crime squad within the Italian Carabinieri carried out investigations into the stolen artworks, and told Graham-Dixon of their conviction the two thieves were only successful in their theft because they liaised with an 'insider' within the Van Gogh Museum.
The paintings were eventually recovered in 2016, 14 years after the original theft and returned to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. 
But not before they had been passed from pillar to post as the thieves tried to rid themselves of the precious but incriminating pieces. 
Since the Nazi’s first confiscated a Van Gogh painting in 1937, more than 40 of his masterpieces have been stolen in 15 separate heists from galleries all over the world. 
While many of the missing works have since been recovered, it’s believed there are still around 85 of Van Gogh's masterpieces in unknown locations around the world.
An art dealer who lives in the famous Exorcist House in Lynn is offering a £2,000 reward in a bid to recover a trove of stolen paintings. Roland Bachkauskas was on holiday in Spain when he received a worrying phone call from police informing him that £20,000 worth of paintings had been stolen from his property.

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An art dealer who lives in the famous Exorcist House in Lynn is offering a £2,000 reward in a bid to recover a trove of stolen paintings. Roland Bachkauskas was on holiday in Spain when he received a worrying phone call from police informing him that £20,000 worth of paintings had been stolen from his property. It is thought the crooks made off with 17 original artworks and a handful of jewellery after forcing entry through the back door. He said: “I believe this was a prearranged hit because it seems to have been quite an organised operation. “My property has previously been advertised online on Rightmove and this would have given the thieves a tour of my home.” Mr Bachkauskas, who has been collecting and restoring artworks for nearly 40 years, says the thieves appear to have “randomly” selected pieces based on their age. Among the artworks stolen from the propety in Pilot Street are 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century works which are believed to be valued between £220 and £2,000. Mr Bachkauskas’ record of stolen paintings includes The Mussel Gatherers by Robert McGregor, which depicts a Breton family on a beach carrying baskets, The Patron saints of Malagas, which shows St Ciriaco and St Paula in a sunlit sky above a sea view in Malagas, Spain, and a still life of vegetables in a basket by Walter Dexter, among more. Mr Bachkauskas has been in contact with national and international collectors to inform them of his situation and to ask them to “keep an eye out” for his stolen artworks. He added: “The thieves appeared to have come in through the back garden. “There were gaps on the walls from where they had taken paintings as well as some paintings down from the walls and stood up on the floor. “They also took some jewellery.”

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