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Friday, December 29, 2006

Art market is hotter than ever

By Deborah Brewster in New York and Peter Aspden in London

Published: December 28 2006 21:42 | Last updated: December 28 2006 21:42

When Picasso’s “Boy with a Pipe” fetched a record $104m (£53m, €79m) at a Sotheby’s New York auction in 2004, it was the talk of the town. Never before had an artwork commanded more than $100m and the deal made news outside the art world.

Two years later David Geffen, the entertainment mogul, sold almost half a billion dollars’ worth of paintings within a few months – one, Jackson Pollock’s “No.5, 1948”, for $140m – and few blinked.

The sales were merely the latest sign of a boom that has seen salerooms packed and art fairs proliferate. The year had already seen Ronald Lauder, the cosmetics heir, pay $135m for a work by Gustav Klimt, “Adele Bloch-Bauer 1”. Steve Wynn, the casino owner, agreed to sell Picasso’s “Le Reve” for $140m to Steve Cohen, a hedge fund mogul – a deal that was pulled after Mr Wynn accidentally tore a hole in the work prior to delivery.

In a fitting climax, 50,000 people descended on Miami this month for a five-day frenzy of art sales under the umbrella of the Art Basel fair. More jets were rented for the event than for the Super Bowl.

Art prices in the US rose this year by an average of 27 per cent – the steepest ever, according to, which tracks global auction prices. Depending on which index you consult, overall prices are either close to or above the level they reached during the peak of the last art boom in 1990. “It certainly feels like a bubble to me,” says one long-standing collector.

Michael Moses, an associate professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, is more sanguine. “The last five years, prices have been growing faster than they have in the past 25 years. We are growing at a rate that may not be sustainable if you believe in mean reversion. However, prices are not growing as fast as they were during 1985-90, the peak of the last market boom, and that indicates that we are not at the bubble yet.”

“We may still have a year or so more to run,” says Mr Moses, who with his colleague Jianping Mei compiles the Mei Moses art index.

Many in the industry believe that the huge growth in global wealth and historically high levels of liquidity worldwide will underpin art prices for some time yet. Bill Ruprecht, chief executive of Sotheby’s, the auction house, says: “The reason people say this is different from the last boom is that in the 1980s, the market was driven by Japanese real-estate wealth. When that fell apart, the art market fell apart. Now we have Russian wealth, Chinese wealth, Japanese wealth, hedge fund wealth, entrepreneurial wealth, real-estate wealth. There is a huge concentration of wealth at the top of the economic pyramid, a bigger concentration than anyone has experienced before.”

Sotheby’s and rival Christie’s have together sold more than $7.5bn in art this year, easily surpassing the 1990 total. American buyers continue to drive the market but the new blood is from China and Russia. A man who appeared to be Russian bought a Picasso portrait for $95m at Sotheby’s this year, sparking speculation – still ongoing – as to the identity of the oligarch for whom he was acting.

Chinese contemporary art is the current hot favourite, with prices rising so rapidly that most believe this sector will be the first to fall. Hong Kong auction sales have quadrupled in the past five years, as Chinese and south Asian collectors make their presence felt. Christie’s Hong Kong art sales brought in $1.8m 20 years ago; this year the total was $364m. Ken Yeh, Christie’s deputy chairman for Asia, says: “Eventually there will be a correction but the mainland Chinese have only just started buying.”

Hedge fund managers, particularly in the US, are also big buyers. Mr Cohen a few years ago famously bought Damien Hirst’s shark encased in formaldehyde (and has asked Hirst to replace it with a new shark, as the original was deteriorating). Ken Griffin, who founded Chicago’s $12bn Citadel hedge fund, has emerged as a strong buyer of contemporary art. US museums – which, unlike their European and UK counterparts, rely on private money – have taken to recruiting hedge fund managers to their boards in the hope they will give both money and artworks.

hose who have family money also continue to spend. Alice Walton, the Wal-Mart heiress who is a big collector of American art, a few months ago offered to buy a 1875 work by Thomas Eakins for $68m before the citizens of Philadelphia rallied to keep the painting in the city. Eli Broad, the founder of builder KB Homes and a well-known collector, is setting up a museum in Los Angeles.

As prices spiral upwards, art is increasingly viewed as an asset class – a development that evokes mixed feelings. There is the usual disdain of old money for the taste of those with new money, who are perceived as favouring conceptual works. “You could sell them a plastic bowl and they would pay $10m,” sniffs one collector of American art. “They just come in and throw it around; it’s a couple of Porsches, the house in Greenwich [Connecticut] and then the artworks to go with those.”

Mr Ruprecht disagrees: “I don’t think it’s true that the new wealthy are all buying the same things. The joke is that you have to get your second Warhol by the time you are 30, but I really don’t think the taste is that unconsidered or nuanced. They are buying Old Masters, tribal works, textiles.”

Nevertheless, the rise in art prices has not been uniform. Some big names have been left behind by the boom and some genres, such as watercolours, are unfashionable. “There has been an evolution out of Old Masters and 19th-century works, and even out of American paintings,” says Mr Moses. “It is the postwar and Impressionist works that have shown the real strength.”

“Every generation sets its own rules,” says Mr Ruprecht. “The late Warhols were not appreciated 15 years ago. Certain Old Masters were relegated to back rooms because they were not the trophy names of the day. Each generation redefines what it wants.”

About half a dozen art indices have sprung up, measuring the rise in prices of sectors and artists. Art databases have contributed greatly to the transparency of the market, providing information for a fee on how often and at what price particular works have changed hands. Art funds have also been launched to invest in artworks, although few have made headway.

“Some of the hedge fund buyers think that art is an investment class. But that is an unproven thesis. Art does not produce cash flow – it has merely scarcity value, driven by cultural perceptions. That is a very different proposition from other asset classes,” says one seasoned collector.

Fears exist that increased pressure to secure a return on investment has contributed to a rise in price manipulation – although this has always been a feature of an unregulated market and most of the evidence is anecdotal. Typically, a buyer will snap up a large number of works by an artist and hoard them, then bid aggressively next time a work by the artist comes up at auction. Having driven up the price and created a feeling of scarcity, the hoarder can sell the rest at a premium.

A factor that has added spice, not to mention a steady flow of masterpieces, to the market over the past 12 months has been the controversy provoked by restitution claims. These have sought to return works looted by the Nazis from Jewish families to the heirs of the original owners.

The Nazis stored some 5m looted objects, including many valuable works of art, in more than 1,500 depots during the war, about half of which were returned by the Allies by 1950. Sotheby’s estimates that there are still more than 100,000 unclaimed works with a collective value of “anywhere between $10bn and $30bn”.

Restitution claims have accelerated in the past few years and have been responsible for some highly prized works reaching the market. A landmark was reached by Sotheby’s in London with the £11m sale of Egon Schiele’s “Krumauer Landschaft (Stadt und Fluss)” in 2003 – then a record for a restituted painting. But the impact was dwarfed by the news that four restituted Klimts belonging to the Bloch-Bauer family were to be auctioned at Christie’s New York in November.

The paintings instantly became the most significant Nazi-loot restitution cases. They had been stolen from the family in 1938 and eventually placed in Vienna’s Austrian Gallery Belvedere, but the Bloch-Bauer heirs began a protracted court battle in the US to reclaim the paintings in 2000.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that US courts had jurisdiction to decide the case, but it was finally settled by an Austrian arbitration panel that ruled in favour of the Bloch-Bauers. The pre-auction estimate of $93m was smashed during a dramatic evening, with the four works raising more than $192m.

Lucian Simmons, head of restitution for Sotheby’s, says there are still important works of art missing from the second world war period but that many of the biggest cases have been settled.

“Claims grew from the 1990s, because of records becoming available in eastern Europe following the fall of the Iron Curtain and because of the ‘third-generation effect’. The first generation [of Jewish families] was pleased to come out of the war alive; the second was busy establishing itself as good Americans, Britons or whatever. Now the third generation is interested in recovering its roots and, in many cases, its missing inheritance.”

He says most cases are settled harmoniously but there are still areas of contention. In November, the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation withdrew from sale Picasso’s “Portrait de Angel Fernández de Soto” because of a restitution claim that was felt to have cast enough of a shadow over the picture to discourage potential buyers.

With restitution increasing, many paintings hanging in museums and in collections could come on to the market in the coming years, fuelling it still further. Says one dealer returning exhausted from Miami’s Art Basel: “I don’t see any slowdown next year. It will be a year of more, more of everything for the art world.”

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Netherlands Museum Displays Nazi-Era Looted Art

J.H. Tischbein I, Friedrich II (1720-1785), Count of Hessen-Kassel (detail), third quarter of 18th century, canvas, The Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage (ICN), Amsterdam/Rijswijk.

AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS.-Works on display at the exhibition "Looted, But From Whom?" The exhibit of the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam displays artworks that were looted from their owners during the Nazi era and have yet to be claimed. Fifty artworks that were looted in the Netherlands during World War II are now on display in Amsterdam in the hope of generating claims for stolen art currently in the custody of the Dutch government.

The exhibit of the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam displays artworks that were looted from their owners during the Nazi era and have yet to be claimed. The exhibit, "Looted, but from whom?" is intended to draw public attention to the issue of Holocaust-era stolen art and facilitate the return of at least some of the few hundred works for which the original Dutch owners or heirs have not yet been found.

The exhibit was organized with the Origins Unknown Agency, established in 1998 to research and publicize the origins of the 4,700 Dutch-owned artworks that were found in Germany after World War II. The agency has a website,, which can be searched for artworks looted in the Netherlands during World War II. Since it was established, the agency has helped in the return of more than 500 items. The museum exhibit displays the results of the agency's research. Also helping to organize the exhibit are the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage.

The website of the exhibit at the Jewish Historical Museum is in Dutch and English. The exhibit is staged at the Hollandsche Schouwburg (Dutch theater), and runs through February 25, 2007.

The Claims Conference and the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) have begun a comprehensive program toward the restitution of Jewish-owned art and cultural property lost and plundered during the Holocaust. Recently, a survey was completed of U.S. museums concerning their progress in provenance research, and underway is a digitization and publication of the records of the main Nazi organization responsible for pilfering and collecting art during the Holocaust. Information regarding restitution of art, including a list of searchable databases of potentially looted art, is at

LACMA Receives Thomas Eakins's Wrestlers

Thomas Eakins (United States, 1844-1916), Wrestlers, 1899, oil on canvas, 62 x 72 in., Gift of Cecile C. Bartman and The Cecile and Fred Bartman Foundation.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- LACMA announced the recent acquisition of Thomas Eakins's (1844 - 1916) large sporting painting, Wrestlers (1899). The generous gift of Mrs. Cecile C. Bartman and The Cecile and Fred Bartman Foundation, Wrestlers is one of the last major subject paintings this great American realist created.

Viewed in the trajectory of Eakins's accomplishments, from his first student studies of the figure and early rowing pictures of the 1870s to his late boxing and wrestling paintings, Wrestlers stands as a superb summation of some of the most significant themes of the artist's career.

Mrs. Bartman explained her gift, "LACMA has been a significant part of my life ever since I moved from Chicago, and the eighteen years I served as a docent were quite enjoyable. I thought it was time to give something back to this great institution."

And Michael Govan, LACMA's CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director, noted, "Wrestlers is one of the most historically significant additions to the museum's encyclopedic permanent collection, which already includes the preparatory sketch of this powerful painting. Prominently situated in the canon of American Art, Wrestlers will always hold an important place in our galleries as well."

Thomas Eakins, alongside Winslow Homer, is considered one of the two greatest realists of American painting of the nineteenth century. While Homer concentrated on rural themes, and ultimately on the relationship of humanity to nature, Eakins focused on people. He was a determined materialist, and though he was a portrait painter of great psychological depth, his primary focus was the body, the human being embodied in his or her physical reality. He was also a beloved yet controversial academic teacher, proselytizing drawing from the live model and the study of anatomy.

As such, he stands as the first American artist to base his art on the close and exacting analysis of the body, and is the fountainhead for a realist tradition which extends from him through Robert Henri and the Ashcan School to Reginald Marsh, Fairfield Porter, Philip Pearlstein, and California artist David Park. Eakins's deep conviction that the human is the central concern of painting, and that the human is composed indissolubly of mind and body, is what made him influential to his younger colleagues and later generations. Wrestlers is Eakins last completed statement on the subject and is a testament to a lifetime of teaching, painting, and struggling with the dilemmas of representing the body.

In this vein, Wrestlers is also very much a spiritual self-portrait of a frustrated artist towards the end of his career. Although the focus on two nude figures underscores Eakins's academic training, which extolled and elevated the human body in its most perfect state, the unusual composition suggests that the artist intended the painting to be much more than a literal representation of a new popular bourgeois spectator entertainment.

In Eakins's best and most modern late paintings, the artist compelled the viewer to look again and think again about what is presented. Often the general effect for the viewer of the most probing late paintings is a feeling of discomfort. This was intentional as Eakins himself was in the midst of many personal, familial, and professional problems. The unresolved issues of Wrestlers thereby become echoes of Eakins's own life.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Revealed: the unseen Goya painting of the boy who halted the Spanish Inquisition

The Goya masterpiece of the six-year-old Infante Don Luis Maria is on show in Madrid's Prado museum after centuries in private hands. Photograph: Susana Vera/Reuters

Revealed: the unseen Goya painting of the boy who halted the Spanish Inquisition

· Canvas hanging in private for 200 years is unveiled
· Child subject grew up to be a famous cardinal
Giles Tremlett The Guardian

It is the portrait that everyone knew existed but few have been fortunate enough to see in the two centuries or so since it was painted.

Yesterday that painting of a cherubic-looking six-year-old member of the Spanish royal family, the Infante Don Luis Maria, was displayed to the world for the first time since Francisco de Goya put paintbrush to canvas in 1783.

But just as intriguing as the painting is the subject himself - an apparently studious little boy who would go on to become a cardinal at the age of 23 and who would put an end to that most infamous institution, the Spanish Inquisition.

Only a handful of experts and members of a family of Spanish grandees who descend from Luis's heirs had set eyes on the portrait. "It has never been loaned to any exhibition and has remained in the family's hands ever since," said a spokesman for Spain's Foundation Plaza, which has bought the picture for €10m (£6.7m).

The canvas, only slightly grubby after two centuries of hanging on the walls of the private palaces of a series of dukes, was unveiled yesterday by curators at Madrid's Prado museum.

"It is one of the masterpieces of the period," said the Prado's head of conservation, Gabriele Finaldi. "There is a certain amount of superficial dirt. Otherwise it is in an almost virgin state."

A modest clean-up, the fixing of a few scratches and replacement of a yellowing varnish would reveal the full depth and wealth of colours employed, he added.

The "new" Goya features a blond-haired boy in blue breeches and tailcoat, standing over a map of the world. He holds a piece of a puzzle map of Spain in one hand and a compass in the other.

His full name is Prince Don Luis Maria de Borbon y Vallabriga and he was a nephew of Spain's King Carlos III.

For Goya, still in his 30s, this was the first portrait of what would go on to become one of his staple subjects - the children of Spanish royalty. A second portrait, of Luis's sister Maria Teresa, was painted at the same time and now hangs in the National Gallery in Washington.

The encounter between the boy who grew up to be a cardinal and the painter who became a legend took place in 1783.

The young Goya travelled to the family estate in Avila province, where Luis's father had been sent after being expelled from the court by his brother, the king.

He spent time living with the family, as Luis's father became his first major royal patron and introduced him to the rest of Spain's nobility. Goya would go on to become court painter to several Spanish kings before turning deaf and producing, with his later paintings and etchings such as Los Caprichos, some of the most intense and troubling pictures of all time.

With his mock-adult clothes topped off by an enormous white bow in his hair, surrounded by maps, the young Luis is already being asked to show off the progressive education which was meant to prepare him for future responsibility.

Luis became the Bishop of Seville just sixteen years later, at the age of 22. He was appointed cardinal just a year after that.

Abolishing the Spanish Inquisition was just one of the achievements of a man who became closely associated with the first political movement in the world to go by the name "liberal".

He presided over a regency, backed by a liberal constitution, that fought off the invading forces of Napoleon Bonaparte. The reactionary nephew he helped place on the throne, King Fernando VII, so disapproved of his views, however, that he confiscated his dioceses and his lands.

Although the Prado museum officially said yesterday the previous owners had requested anonymity, the Spanish press named them as the Dukes of Sueca - a family of Spanish grandees who have been selling off inherited wealth for decades.

The painting has been given to the Prado for conservation work but it will soon hang in the city museum in Zaragoza, central Spain - close to the town of Goya's birth, Fuendetodos. A new museum to house Goya paintings is be built in the city as part of an international Expo that it hosts in 2008.

Francisco de Goya was a Spanish court painter who turned gradually from portraits of royalty and nobles to subversive depictions of everything from war and the inquisition to monsters and priests. Born in 1746, he slowly gained fame as a portrait artist, thanks to a series of Spanish monarchs who became patrons. He went deaf in 1792, apparently due to the poisons contained in his paints. Obsessed by the French Revolution and philosophy, he turned out a a series of troubling aquatint etchings known as Los Caprichos

He is credited with being one of the first artists to describe the full horrors of warfare. He continues to provoke passions today, with British artists Jake and Dinos Chapman shocking the art world in 2003 by defacing a series of his Disasters of War prints.

Eakins's The Gross Clinic Secured for Philadelphia

Thomas Eakins, "The Gross Clinic".

PHILADELPHIA.- Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street announced at a press conference today that Thomas Eakins's painting, The Gross Clinic, will stay in Philadelphia forever. The philanthropic community in Philadelphia has united with a nationwide grassroots effort to enable two cultural institutions here to match the $68 million sale price of the painting.

The Annenberg Foundation is donating $10 million toward the effort. H.F. ( Gerry ) Lenfest, Joseph Neubauer and The Pew Charitable Trusts will each donate $3 million. In addition, the drive to secure the painting has resulted to date in more than 2,000 donations all over the country, including 30 states and the District of Columbia.

"Eakins' iconic painting, The Gross Clinic, is by a Philadelphian, about Philadelphians, and set in Philadelphia," said Mayor John F. Street. "It belongs in Philadelphia, just as much as the Liberty Bell and our sports teams. We extend profound thanks to the citizens of Philadelphia who made it possible to keep this important piece of our cultural heritage right here where it belongs. What a remarkable gift in this season of giving!"

The painting will be purchased jointly by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art and exhibited publicly by both institutions. In the near future, the masterpiece will be on view at the Museum where it will be seen in context with Eakins and his contemporaries, and it will be shown at the Academy shortly thereafter. Wachovia Bank has agreed to provide any necessary financing.

"Walter Annenberg had great admiration for Thomas Eakins's work, and in particular, for The Gross Clinic," said Leonore Annenberg, president and chairman of the Annenberg Foundation and wife of the late Walter Annenberg. "He would have wanted the painting to stay in Philadelphia and would be so pleased that we are ensuring that it will be accessible to Philadelphians and visitors from around the world for years to come. I am thrilled to be able to carry out what I believe would have been his strong wishes."

"We deeply appreciate the efforts of Senator Specter, Governor Rendell and Mayor Street, as well as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and all the donors who supported this project to keep The Gross Clinic in Philadelphia," said H.F. ( Gerry ) Lenfest. "This has truly been an example of civic pride and accomplishment for the entire community. Meanwhile, the fundraising effort continues apace, because we need additional financial support."

"The grassroots campaign to keep Thomas Eakins's The Gross Clinic in Philadelphia has galvanized people across the region,"' said Hugh Long, CEO for Wachovia's MidAtlantic Banking Group. "It also demonstrates what we at Wachovia believe-that Philadelphia is not the next great city-it IS a great city. It's a city with a rich history, a wealth of cultural treasures and a legacy of medical and education innovation. But its most important asset is passionate leaders who care about this city and its future. Wachovia is proud to help these leaders achieve the goal of saving a part of the city's heritage and ensuring that people across the nation and around the world see Philadelphia as the great city it is."

The Gross Clinic is a dramatic 8' by 6' painting of Dr. Samuel D. Gross, distinguished surgeon and first chair of surgery at Thomas Jefferson University's Medical College, performing bone surgery in front of his students. Thomas Eakins, a Philadelphia native, who was for many years an instructor and a director of the Academy, painted the portrait in 1875 after studying anatomy under Dr. Gross. The announcement in Philadelphia comes after Thomas Jefferson University, owner of the painting since 1878, agreed in early November to sell the work to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, for $68 million. Local art and governmental institutions were offered the opportunity to match the bid within 45 days.

Joseph Neubauer, chairman and CEO of ARAMARK Corporation, stated, "Treasures like The Gross Clinic are vital to the cultural fabric of the region. I am thrilled at the remarkable response from the community to act on this important endeavor in such a short period of time. This represents a strong commitment to building and preserving Philadelphia´s arts and heritage."

"The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, our nation's first fine arts institution, will be proud to be able to share this important painting with art lovers in Philadelphia and around the globe," said Donald R. Caldwell, Chairman of the Board of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. "Thomas Eakins was a student and teacher at the Academy, so this is poetic justice for one of America´s greatest masters."

"A city's cultural icons are central to its identity and its aspirations," said Anne d'Harnoncourt, Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. "If the city of Amsterdam were faced with the potential loss of Rembrandt's The Night Watch, that community too would rally. Like The Night Watch, The Gross Clinic possesses a powerful national significance rooted in its home city. Now that it will take its place in the galleries of the Museum and the Pennsylvania Academy, both of which provide such a profound context, it will become an extraordinary pilgrimage destination-the capstone of Eakins' achievement telling its remarkable story of greatness in Philadelphia, past, present and future."

"We have proven to the world that we are a 'comeback city' that will rise to every occasion," said Rebecca W. Rimel, president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts. "Our region values its arts and heritage and takes pride in being excellent stewards of these works. The Pew Charitable Trusts commends Mayor Street, Wachovia Bank, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art for their leadership. We thank the broad array of donors who have contributed to this remarkable effort, and we are deeply honored to be a part of this extraordinary civic collaboration to keep the painting here in Philadelphia, where it belongs."

Friday, December 22, 2006

274 art works stolen from State Art Museum found in the USA

274 art works stolen from State Art Museum found in the USA

[ 22 Dec. 2006 18:22 ]

274 art works stolen from State Art Museum in July, 1993, have been found in the USA, chief of Interpol Central Bureau in Azerbaijan Mammed Mikaylov told APA.

He said that 6 orientations on the robbery were published and sent to the Interpol member countries. The art works have been found in result of investigations with Washington, Wiesbaden and other central bureaus. All the culprits have been identified. 14 paintings have been given back to their owner-Germany Bremen Museum and more than 200 exhibits returned to the country. An international notice was issued for Aydin Ibrahimov Ali by Interpol. He came to Azerbaijan from the USA in September and gave up himself to the police. Mammed Mikayilov also noted that photos of stolen carpets from Azerbaijan Museum of History were obtained by MIA Main Investigation Department and the information about the carpets has been included to the data base of Interpol. At present, 103 stolen art works are being oriented. /APA/

Scream, Madonna, Damage Permanent !!

Stolen Munch damaged in theft, museum says

Agencies Friday December 22, 2006 Guardian Unlimited

Thieves who stole Edvard Munch's The Scream, one of the world's most famous images, may have damaged the painting so badly it cannot be completely repaired, say experts.

The painting and another Munch masterpiece, Madonna, were recovered by police in August, two years after they were stolen from Oslo's Munch Museum by masked gunmen in a brazen daylight heist on Aug. 22, 2004. Police have refused to say how they recovered the artworks, or where they had been for two years.

After an extensive study, museum experts on Friday are to give Oslo police a 200-page report which, among other things, expresses concern about moisture damage to a large part of The Scream.

"Water has been absorbed by one corner of the paper board, and there is abrasion damage on the lower part of the painting," Museum curator Ingebjoerg Ydstie told the TV-2 network late Wednesday. "We have a large swath that is very visible."

She said the museum was still assessing what to do about the damage, and whether can be fixed, but that no decision had been made.

"There are types of damage we can't do anything about," museum restoration expert Anne Milnes told TV-2. The Scream is probably the best known of Munch's emotionally charged works and was a major influence on the Expressionist movement. In four versions of the painting, a waif-like figure is apparently screaming or hearing a scream. The image has become a modern icon of human anxiety.

Museum spokeswoman Jorunn Christoffersen on Thursday said they would not comment further until after the report had been released, but referred to a summary of the resonation efforts posted on the city-owned museums Web site. That summary said experts are still trying to determine what kind of liquid caused the moisture damage in the lower left corner of the painting.

"When one has further knowledge of the chemical composition one will know whether the damage is going to be stable, or whether one may risk the development of further future damage," the statement said.

It also said there are ethical limits in the art world to how extensively a painting can be restored, and that any effort would be cautious because of the possible long term impact of modern pigments and binding agents on the painting. It was not clear how long it would take before "The Scream" could be exhibited again. Repairs to Madonna were expected to take even longer.

"The painting will be cleaned, the threads in the tears will be joined one by one and tiny, loose flakes of paint will be carefully fastened to the canvas with the help of a microscope," the statement said.

The Scream and Madonna were part of Munch's Frieze of Life series, in which sickness, death, anxiety and love are central themes. The painter died in 1944 at the age of 80.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Fine Art of Appraisal, What's it Worth, To You and I

The Toledo Museum of Art’s ‘Children with a Cart’ by Francisco de Goya Lucientes was recovered just days after it was stolen while in transit to a New York museum.

Sometimes, attaching value can be tricky. That’s often the case with Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens, whose ‘The Crowning of Saint Catherine’ belongs to the Toledo museum. When a Rubens specialist views a painting, he may attempt to determine how much of it was done by the master and how much was done by an assistant. The Toledo piece is thought to have had substantial input by the master.

The Fine Art of Appraisal

The amount of insurance on a purloined painting raises the question:

Who and what determine when the price is right?


The 1778 painting by Francisco de Goya Lucientes, owned by the Toledo Museum of Art and stolen last month while being trucked to the Guggenheim Museum in New York, was insured for about $1 million.

Several art experts outside of Toledo said the painting, Children with a Cart, although not one of the most desirable Goyas, was probably worth far more than that. But in a skyrocketing art market — especially for 20th century work — who and what determine when the price is right?

Consider a few examples:

• Connecticut hedge-fund billionaire Steven Cohen scooped up Willem de Kooning’s painting Woman III (circa 1952-53) from entertainment mogul David Geffen last month for $137.5 million. That eclipsed the highest-known previous king’s ransom of $135 million for the gold-drenched Adele Bloch-Bauer I (Gustav Klimt, 1907), acquired in June by Ronald Lauder. Heir to the Estee Lauder fortune, his passion is for Jewish-owned art that had been looted in Nazi-era Germany and Austria.A Connecticut billionaire scooped up Willem de Kooning’s painting ‘Woman III’ for $137.5 million last month.
• Also last month, a Norman Rockwell painting of father and son, Breaking Home Ties, fetched $15.4 million. It was once voted the second-most popular cover of The Saturday Evening Post, which it graced in 1954. The family who sold it had bought it in 1960 for $900, and it was long hidden behind a fake wall. The previous record for a Rockwell: $9.2 million in May.Last month, a Norman Rockwell painting, ‘Breaking Home Ties,’ fetched $15.4 million. The family who sold it had purchased it in 1960 for $900. The painting was once voted the secondmost popular cover of The Saturday Evening Post, which it graced in 1954.

• A few weeks ago a black crayon-on-paper drawing of a surreal bull sketched by Goya near the end of his life sold for $2.9 million — more than twice what was expected.

Two of the four 1893 paintings known as The Scream by Norwegian Edvard Munch were stolen (and recovered) in recent years. As iconic as the Mona Lisa or American Gothic, Munch’s expression of howling angst was estimated to be worth $60 million to $75 million by Norway’s oldest auction house.

• A life-sized ceramic sculpture, Michael Jackson and Bubbles (the pop star holding his chimpanzee) by American Jeff Koons, sold for $5.6 million in 1991. One of its three copies is owned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.A life-sized ceramic sculpture, ‘Michael Jackson and Bubbles’ (the pop star holding his chimpanzee) by American Jeff Koons, sold for $5.6 million in 1991.

At its simplest, figuring out how much a piece of art is worth, especially older works, requires knowing the history of ownership (called the provenance) and its condition, quality, rareness, and size (larger is usually worth more). Recent sale prices for similar pieces by the same artist or comparable artists of the same era usually provide guidelines.

Then it’s a matter of what the market will bear: Who wants the painting and how much money do they have — significant wild cards at a time when rivers of cash are flowing like never before and billionaires (and even mere millionaires) are looking for places to park money. Some investors are “flipping” art — buying pieces, then selling them a few years later for handsome profits.

Artistic appetites
Cleveland art dealer James Corcoran suggests the rich are spending fortunes because art may seem a more stable investment than real estate. Moreover, the dollar is weak in relation to other currencies.

There’s also tremendous wealth and appetite for art in Russia, China, Dubai, and India, noted Paul Provost, director of estates and appraisals at Christie’s, the international auction house. Christie’s broke its own records during two weeks in November, raking in $866 million in art sales, including a one-night blowout of nearly a half-billion dollars in sales of modern and Impressionist pieces. The company expects to far exceed last year’s record sales of $3.2 billion.

Exactly how do buyers’ tastes change and why is 20th-century art so hot?

“I wish we knew,” said Mr. Provost, who has a doctoral degree in art history. “The one thing we can’t determine is how badly the buyers want it.”

The value of the Toledo Goya — which was recovered about 10 days after it was taken — would only be known if it were sold.

“But I don’t know that it would be that easy to find a buyer,” said longtime New York dealer Richard Feigen, adding that the greatest interest probably would be in Spain.

The painting might bring $2.5 million to $3.5 million, he guessed, adding that it’s not unusual for insurance value to be below market value because museum staff don’t expect problems to arise and often don’t pay much attention to the process.

Elin Lake-Ewald, who has appraised other Goyas, said Toledo’s Goya, which was acquired in 1959 for a purchase price the museum will not disclose, should have been insured for more than $1 million.

“That’s a disgrace. Goya’s one of the world’s great artists. I’m sure even several years ago we would have put it at at least $5 million to $7 million,” said Ms. Lake-Ewald, head of the O’Toole-Ewald Art Association Inc. in Manhattan.

Museum collections are often insured by blanket policies, but when an item is being loaned, a special policy will be written and it’s usually paid for by the borrowing institution. Staff at both the Toledo and Guggenheim museums determined the Goya’s insurance value, said Jordan Rundgren, Toledo museum spokesman. “Insurance values are determined on a case-by-case basis at the time of any loan request, after a thorough analysis of the market for the closest comparable works of art on the market at that time,” Ms. Rundgren said in an e-mail.

A constant re-evaluation
Art is continually being re-evaluated by art critics. Adding to the complexity is that over the last generation or so, the wall separating high art and popular art has gradually diminished, Ms. Lake-Ewald said.

Rockwell’s paintings are more valuable not just because of nostalgia but also because of savvy positioning, she noted. His dealers have mounted high-profile exhibits. And a Norman Rockwell Museum has been established and brings in a variety of respected artists. Appraisers also may look at exhibition history and even how often an item has been reproduced in books or mentioned in literature. “How significant is it? How large does it loom in our art consciousness?” Ms. Lake-Ewald said.

Buyer motives vary
People buy art for lots of reasons: to beat out a competitor or because the piece reminds them of a beloved person. Some buyers relish the cachet of owning a notable piece. Some buy impulsively; others rely on the advice of consultants.

“It depends on the taste of the buyer,” said Daphne Rosenzweig. “Art is an emotional thing.”

And it’s not unusual for one of an artist’s pieces to capture an exorbitant sum that might never be surpassed. “There’s always a spike,” said Ms. Rosenzweig, an appraiser and art history professor at the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Fla.

She pointed to last month’s $17.3 million purchase of a large 1972 silkscreen by Andy Warhol of Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong by a Chinese real estate magnate. Preauction expectations suggested $8 million to $12 million.

Price can be affected by the reputation of the sellers and the period of the artist’s life in which it was created. Sometimes, attaching value can be tricky.

Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens hired many assistants and operated a huge studio that produced more than 2,000 paintings. Consequently, when a Rubens specialist views a painting in person, he or she may attempt to determine how much of it was done by the master (perhaps the face and hands of the subjects, for example) and how much was done by an employee.

The nearly 9-foot by 6-foot Rubens owned by the Toledo museum, The Crowning of Saint Catherine, is thought to have had substantial input by the master because the nearly-identical faces of the four women portrayed are thought to have been modeled by the 16-year-old girl he married in 1630 when he was 53.

To evaluate such a piece, appraisers would begin by scrutinizing records of both ownership and restoration, said Mr. Corcoran of Corcoran Fine Arts Ltd. in Cleveland. They might examine it under a black light, request an X-ray that could be compared to X-rays of other Rubens, bring in a technician to conduct further tests, or ship the painting to a laboratory for exhaustive analysis.

He’d consult the Rubenianum, a scholarly archive in Antwerp and track down sale prices for comparably-sized Rubens. Religious subject matter would probably bring a lower price than Rubens’ secular work, Mr. Corcoran said.

Regional pieces, prices
Regional art prices are almost always based on supply and demand and tend to increase slowly.

Local auctioneer John Whalen recently sold five paintings by the late Haskins, Ohio, artist Earl North for $500 to $1,000. The work of another local artist sold well in September when about 200 people showed up for an auction of 153 glass pieces by the late Dominick Labino, Mr. Whalen said. The glass went for $300 to $9,000 each.

Longtime Toledo curator Peggy Grant has devoted recent years to exhibiting the art of her late husband, Adam Grochowski Grant, mounting shows in Indiana, Toledo, and in his native Poland. She donated three of his pieces to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Germany, where he was a concentration camp prisoner during World War II. Based on recent sales, she is firm about selling his large paintings for $25,000.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Dark Side, FBI, Followed By The Noble Side of The FBI !!

Parole board member says FBI tried to intimidate him

By DENISE LAVOIE AP Legal Affairs Writer

BOSTON— A former member of the state Parole Board said Tuesday that two FBI agents tried to intimidate him into keeping a wrongly convicted man in prison for a 1960s gangland slaying.

Former Springfield Mayor Michael Albano, who served on the board from 1982 to 1994, testified in a lawsuit filed by the families of four men who say the FBI allowed them to be framed to protect a mobster informant.

Two of those men, Joseph Salvati and Peter Limone, spent more than 30 years in prison for the murder of Edward "Teddy" Deegan before being exonerated in 2001 when the Justice Department released documents showing the FBI withheld evidence from prosecutors that could have cleared the men so the agency could protect Vincent "Jimmy" Flemmi, an informant who actually committed the crime.

Louis Greco and Henry Tameleo, who were also convicted in Deegan's killing, died in prison.

Lawyers for the men's families asked Albano if the FBI, after being contacted by the parole board as it considered petitions to commute their sentences, ever turned over evidence it had that the men were not involved in the murder of Deegan.

"No such information was provided," Albano testified.

Albano also made a brief reference in his testimony to a 1983 "unannounced visit" from former FBI Agents John Connolly, (pic top middle and left), and John Morris, (pic top right), as the board was considering a petition to commute Limone's sentence.

He was not asked to provide details of the visit during his testimony. But outside the courtroom, Albano said Connolly and Morris urged him to vote against commuting Limone's sentence and said that if he voted in favor of commuting his sentence it could hurt his career.

"They intimidated me and tried to get me to change my vote," Albano told reporters. "They said this was a bad crime ... that these defendants should remain incarcerated for the rest of their lives."

"They also said it probably would not bode well for me, if I wanted to remain in public life, that this would not be a good vote for me," he said.

Albano said he later voted with the majority of the 7-member board to commute Limone's sentence, but Gov. Michael Dukakis denied the petition.

Connolly is now serving a 10-year federal prison sentence for racketeering, obstruction of justice and other charges for protecting members of Boston's Winter Hill Gang - including fugitive gangster James "Whitey" Bulger" - from prosecution while using them as FBI mob informants.

Connolly is awaiting trial on first-degree murder and conspiracy charges for allegedly providing information to members of the gang that led to the 1982 killing of former World Jai Alai President John Callahan.

Connolly's attorney, E. Peter Mullane, said Connolly denies the meeting described by Albano ever took place.

"John Connolly never met Mr. Albano under any circumstance, never spoke to him, never met him, never had any reason to meet him," he said.

Connolly was not an FBI agent in 1968 when the four men were convicted in Deegan's murder.

"He had no reason to want him paroled or not paroled," Mullane said.

Albano said the meeting took place just as he described. "I'll stand by my testimony," he said, when told of Mullane's comments.

Charles Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, said the DOJ would have no comment on Albano's remarks because of the ongoing litigation.

In their lawsuit, the families of the four men convicted in Deegan's slaying accuse the federal government of malicious prosecution, conspiracy and depriving them of companionship.

Their lawyers say the FBI allowed Joseph "The Animal" Barboza - a mob assassin and FBI informant - to frame the four men.

After Deegan was shot in the head in a Chelsea alley, informants told FBI agents that Barboza, Flemmi and three other men were responsible, according to attorneys for the four men. But the FBI had recruited Flemmi as an informant and wanted to protect him so they allowed Barboza to frame Limone, Salvati, Greco and Tameleo.

Justice Department attorney Bridget Lipscomb said during opening statements at the trial that federal authorities had no duty to share information with state prosecutors and can't be held liable for the results of a separate state investigation. She also said that the four men had attorneys who raised doubts about Barboza's testimony at their trial.

"International Art Theft" presented by FBI Special Agent Robert K. Wittman Date: January 11, 2007 Time: 5:30 pm

Location: The Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens

Contact: World Affairs Council of the Florida Palm Beaches
Phone: 561-254-1448

International Art Theft Presented by: FBI Special Agent Robert K. Wittman

Art and cultural property crime is the world's fourth-largest category of international crime, a growing black market today generating losses of up to $6 billion annually and a problem that is garnering increased attention from the FBI. The FBI's first specially dedicated unit for art crime, was established in November 2004 to step up U.S. response capabilities after the tragic looting of the National Museum in Baghdad.

At this special evening, the World Affairs Council of the Florida Palm Beaches hosts Special Agent Wittman who will discuss the United States' renewed efforts to break up crime rings that steal and smuggle priceless works of art, loot archaeological sites and churn out forgeries, as well as some of his own experiences in his almost 18 years on the FBI's art beat.

Doors open at 5:30pm and dinner can be purchased at The Cornell Cafe prior to the discussion beginning at 6:30pm. Tickets to this event are $20 and can be reserved online by visiting and purchased at the door. For directions to The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, please click here.

Speaker's Biography
Special Agent Wittman, whose investigative work takes him around the world and often times undercover, has been responsible for the recovery of more than $150 million worth of stolen art and cultural property. Highlights include one of the original 14 copies of the Bill of Rights, a Rembrandt self-portrait, a 2,000-year-old pre-Columbian piece of body armor, five Norman Rockwell paintings, and a group of paintings, two by Spanish master Francisco Goya, from a private Madrid estate.

When he's not on an urgent case, Special Agent Wittman lectures often in an effort to teach others how to avoid becoming victims of theft or fraud. He has given presentations before such organizations as the American Association of Museums and has also represented the United States at numerous international conferences. He serves as a member of the Department of State's Cultural Antiquities Task Force in Washington. Special Agent Wittman is widely known and recognized for his expertise. In 2004, the Smithsonian Institution awarded Wittman the Robert Burke Memorial Award for Excellence in Cultural Property Protection.

Special Agent Wittman will discuss the United States' renewed efforts to break up crime rings that steal and smuggle priceless works of art, loot archaeological sites and churn out forgeries, as well as some of his own experiences in his almost 18 years on the FBI's art beat.

Art Hostage Comments:
This is just one of many reasons why Billboard Bob Wittman is "Yer man" as they say in Ireland, when it comes to recovering the stolen Vermeer.

Lord Haw Haw, Tokyo Rose, Ahron Cohen Let History be the Judge !!

Rabbi Ahron Cohen, above left.
Did they deserve it??????????????????

Guilty of What ??

Rabbi claims Holocaust dead ‘deserved it’
Maurice Chittenden

A BRITISH rabbi who angered fellow Jews by speaking at a “Holocaust denial” conference in Iran now says millions did die in gas chambers but may have deserved it.

Ahron Cohen, an Orthodox Jew from Greater Manchester and a leading member of the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta movement, sparked new controversy on his return from Tehran by suggesting that God would have saved the victims of the Nazis if they had deserved to live.

Cohen, whose house in Salford was pelted with 1,000 eggs last year because of his extremist views, told The Sunday Times: “There is no question that there was a Holocaust and gas chambers. There are too many eyewitnesses.

“However, our approach is that when one suffers, the one who perpetrates the suffering is obviously guilty but he will never succeed if the victim did not deserve it in one way or another.

“We have to look within to improve and try to better ourselves and remove those characteristics or actions that may have been the cause of the success of the Holocaust.”

Cohen’s trip to Tehran — along with four American rabbis from the same sect — was paid for by the Iranian foreign ministry, which organised the conference entitled The Holocaust: A Global Vision. They were warmly greeted by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, and had two meetings with him.

Cohen ended his speech to the conference with a prayer “that the underlying cause of strife and bloodshed in the Middle East, namely the state known as Israel, be totally and peacefully dissolved”.

The rabbi claimed “learned gentlemen from both sides of the fence” were at the latest conference. They included David Duke, former “imperial wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan.

Cohen said on his return: “President Ahmadinejad is not a man of war. He is a man of peace. I have received criticism for meeting him and attending the conference, but Jewish people are adopting an attitude of criticism from an emotional point of view, not a logical or sensible one.

“We know there was a Holocaust. We lived through it. I had relatives who died in it . . . But in no way must the Holocaust be used to further the aims of the Zionist concept.”

Rabbi Yehuda Brodie, registrar of the Jewish Ecclesiastical Court for Greater Manchester, said: “Rabbi Cohen has for a long time been ostracised by the vast majority of Jews for associating with and thus giving support and legitimacy to the enemies of Israel and the Jewish nation.

“He represents an insignificant minority. His involvement is a stab in the heart of the Jewish community and of all decent law-abiding people.”

Art Hostage comments:

"Evil be to him who Evil Think"

The FBI Fcuked President Bush Royally, Something Normally Akin To The British !!

The FBI Fcked President Royally

The FBI was supposed to investigate the background of those the President
nominates to his Administration.

The New York City former Police Chief and Bush Admin Superhero was discovered
to have domestic help he failed to properly report and an affair or two.

The FBI managed to discover this and it was enough to send Bernie Kerik
fleeing Washington with his tail between his legs.

But when Hal Daub was nominated to position in the Bush/Cheney World, the FBI
didn't bother to investigate the animal's alleged crimes he was never
brought to justice for despite being notified between nomination and
confirmation and provided details and victims/witnesses to contact.

They allowed George W. Bush to promote a serial rapist and poisoner of
children into his White House and then had to protect a rapist, lie to a
President, and betray a nation to keep their incompetence and complicity
from being discovered.

George Bush is going to freak out when he learns that Hal Daub is a serial
rapist and heroin pusher.
The remaining hairs on Karl Rove's head will soon be hitting the floor.

Daub will blackmail the President to keep it quiet, and the FBI will no
longer fear being disciplined for their treachery, but fear imprisonment for

How's Whitey Bulger treating you G men these days? Did your two agents ever
survive their ten year prison sentences?

RAPE! It's not a crime of passion.

And rape is punishable by more than four terms in Congress no matter what
political affiliation.

Contact your rep in Congress. Let them know they have a serial rapist in the
US government. I welcome any investigation with open arms.

Serial Rapist Harold John "Hal" Daub of the Bush Administration.
Harold's Bio

Death Row Confession of an Republican Rapist Conspirator Mary-Daub-and-Joe-Friend-Talking-About -

Rapist Administration's Hunting Ground in 1972
Lourdes Church

Art Hostage comments:
I sincerely hope this is untrue and Mr Daub is innocent.
However, if there is any truth in these allegations, and the FBI was told of these allegations, and the FBI did not check out these claims, then someone must be held accountable.

What Boston City Hall needs is an exorcist
By Howie Carr
Boston Herald Columnist
Somebody told me this week that Boston City Hall is for sale.
Isn’t it always?

Of course this is supposed to be different from all the earlier “sales.” This latest proposal would be on the level, with RFPs, public hearings and certified checks, as opposed to the customary City Hall currency - cash, in unmarked bills, exchanged with the lights low after a polite pat-down of the shakedownee, to ensure that no unsightly federal wires are attached to the armpits of what the indictments always describe as CW (Cooperating Witness).

As always, Mayor Mumbles Menino is on top of the situation. He knows exactly what the problem is with City Hall. It has too many floors, or, as he put it last week, floorses.
Here is Mumbles’ verbatim quote:
“The buildin’ is unworkable, I mean it doesn’t - it’s not conducive to, uh, customer friendly, uh, when you have so many different floorses, third floor on one side there’s no third on the other side, fourth floor on one side no - you know, and the public gets confused.”
Here is the problem with City Hall in one word, a word that Mumbles can neither define nor pronounce: mezzanine.
Personally, I hate the building. When I worked there, for more than a year in the ’80s, I used to have nightmares about falling endlessly through the back, concrete stairwells.
Have you ever walked across City Hall Plaza in the winter? It’s so cold that city councilors keep their hands in their own pockets.
But let’s face it: If Mumbles did raze City Hall and give the land (which is what you know he’d do - wink wink, nudge nudge) to private developers, all you’d end up with is another crime-ridden Downtown Crossing. Still, anything would be an improvement over Government Center, especially if Tommy Tsoumos is finally allowed to open his sanctuary for weary businessmen, the Foxy Lady Downtown, where the first shot is on the house, and after that you have to use your own
City Hall may be a dismal place, yet there is an argument to be made, as the preservationists did this week, that it is a historic site.
Put it on the National Register of Historic Bad Buildings.
Think of all the Boston lore you’d be destroying if you tore it down. What giants strode those halls. Every Wednesday’s City Council meeting wasn’t just a civics class, it was a spelling lesson. I still recall Freddy Langone bellowing, “Who ate at the Parkman House? Who? H-W-O-H, who?”
And Pat McDonough thundering, “Anyone who votes for this is politically dead. D-E-D, dead.”
I could direct the FBI’s Violent Fugitive Task Force to at least two locations where hand-written correspondence from one James J. Whitey Bulger is filed. One is at the Boston Retirement Board, where he listed his brother Billy’s address as his own, and the other is at - well, I’ll keep that to myself for now. There is a $1 million bounty at stake, after all.

And then there was the city budget director who filed for disability after claiming he slipped on a patch of ice - inside City Hall. His name was Squawker, and the feds indicted him because they wanted to turn him into Squealer.
Remember the high-ranking female appointee, still at City Hall, who attended the Mafia induction in Medford back in 1989, and who was later promoted after her FBI surveillance photo appeared in the papers.
What Stonehenge is to the Druids, Boston City Hall is to the hackerama. You can’t tear it down, no matter how hideous it is. Mumbles, forget the appraisers, what you need is an exorcist. And make sure they sprinkle holy water on all the floors.

Art Hostage comments:
It is about time the Foxes were banned from guarding the Hen House.

Dukakis testifies in Limone trial

By Shelley Murphy
Globe Staff

Former Governor Michael S. Dukakis testified Wednesday that he carefully considered every inmate’s request for clemency in the 1980s, even reviewing case files at home at night before deciding whether they should be set free.

But Dukakis said he only recalled one instance when the state’s top federal prosecutor weighed in on a clemency petition — in 1983, when then US Attorney William F. Weld urged him to reject Peter J. Limone’s bid for freedom.

Considering how ‘‘unusual’’ it was to get such a letter, Dukakis said he gave ‘‘substantial’’ weight to Weld’s warning that Limone would ‘‘assume charge of the day-to-day operations of organized crime in this area’’ if released.

The governor said he urged the governor’s council not to commute the life sentences of Limone and his codefendant, Louis Greco, in the 1980s, but obviously would have felt differently if he knew the men had been wrongfully convicted of the 1965 gangland slaying of petty thief Edward ‘‘Teddy’’ Deegan in Chelsea.

Dukakis, who served as governor from 1975 to 1978 and from 1983 to 1990, was called to the stand in a civil trial, where Limone, Joseph Salvati, and the families of Greco and Henry Tameleo, who are both dead, are seeking more than $100 million from the government for falsely imprisoning the men.

Later, on his way out of the courthouse, Dukakis said it was ‘‘disgraceful’’ that two Italian-American members of the parole board were investigated by the FBI for alleged ties to organized crime after they voted to commute Limone’s sentence in 1983.

‘‘Now that we know what was going on in the (FBI) office, we were all deceived,’’ said Dukakis, referring to the racketeering conviction of former FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr. for his handling of longtime informants James ‘‘Whitey’’ Bulger and Stephen ‘‘The Rifleman’’ Flemmi, and to the murder indictment of former FBI agent H. Paul Rico, who died in jail while awaiting trial. ‘‘In fact, the bureau itself was betrayed.’’

Limone and Salvati spent more than 30 years in prison before they were exonerated five years ago after the revelation that secret FBI reports, never turned over at their 1968 trial, indicated they had been framed by the government’s key witness, Mafia hitman Joseph ‘‘The Animal’’ Barboza. Tameleo and Greco died in prison.

Dukakis acknowledged he knew nothing about allegations that then-FBI agent Dennis Condon was aware Barboza was lying and yet vouched for his credibility during the trial.

But on the stand, Dukakis defended the integrity of Condon, who served as public safety commissioner during his administration. He later told reporters, ‘‘There really wasn’t a better public servant walking the earth, in my opinion.’’

Barboza testified during the 1968 trial that Limone, who allegedly had ties to organized crime, paid him $7,500 to kill Deegan and that Tameleo, the mob’s reputed consigliere, sanctioned the hit. Barboza, who was given leniency for his cooperation, claimed Salvati and Greco participated in the slaying.

In earlier testimony Wednesday, former defense attorney F. Lee Bailey testified that Barboza confided to him two years after the convictions that Rico was part of a plot to frame the four men.

Bailey said Barboza claimed that Rico told him the FBI wanted to prosecute ‘‘high-profile’’ organized crime figures and suggested he implicate Tameleo and Limone in Deegan’s slaying.

‘‘He said he was told (by Rico) to give us two and you can name two,’’ said Bailey, adding that Barboza added Salvati and Greco because he disliked them.

Bailey said Barboza admitted protecting one of the true killers, his close friend Vincent ‘‘Jimmy’’ Flemmi, who was also an FBI informant. Flemmi, who died in prison in 1979, was the brother of longtime FBI informant, Stephen Flemmi.

Bailey said he agreed to represent Barboza in his recantation, but only after the mobster said he would take a lie detector test. But Bailey said the test was never given.

Barboza’s possible recantation became public in 1970 when he signed an affidavit saying portions of his trial testimony were false. But later Barboza told federal prosecutors he was only pretending to recant as part of a plot to extort money from local Mafia leaders, according to court records.

Barboza was gunned down by another mobster in 1976 in San Francisco.

Rico died in January 2004, in jail, awaiting trial on charges that he helped Bulger and Stephen Flemmi orchestrate the 1981 slaying of Tulsa businessman Roger Wheeler.

Photo, That's a Work of Art Itself !!



Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Through the centuries many people have been haunted by the work of Raphael, but probably few have been haunted in quite the same way as Bernard Taper.

Even now, at 88, he says he finds a certain painting continuing to surface in his memory. It is an elegant portrait of a young man that Mr. Taper knew in 1947 only from a black-and-white photograph he had been given, much in the way a detective is handed a snapshot of a missing person.

At that time, in the ruinous aftermath of World War II in Europe, the Raphael portrait was one of the most prominent masterpieces to have disappeared, but it had considerable company. Thousands of paintings, sculptures and artifacts that had been looted by the Nazis — many of them bound for Hitler’s long-envisioned Führer Museum in Linz, Austria, his boyhood home, or confiscated for the collection of Hermann Goering, Hitler’s chief art-looting rival — remained missing at war’s end.

Mr. Taper, then an Army lieutenant charged with tracking down the Raphael, spent months interrogating jailed Nazis and trying to connect the dots, but he never found the painting, which had been taken from a family museum in Krakow, Poland.

“I still dream about it sometimes,” he said in a recent interview. “I wonder if it’s out there.”

The story might sound like grist for a Dan Brown novel or a Steven Spielberg treatment. But the efforts of Allied officers and soldiers like Mr. Taper to save and repatriate stolen treasures during and after the war is a chapter of World War II history still not particularly well known. Even during the war their work — when compared with saving lives and preserving ways of life — was sometimes discounted. Some members of the military referred to these soldiers as “Venus fixers,” a term with more than a hint of the effete.

But the accomplishments of these soldiers, better known as the Monuments Men, are finally starting to come into sharper focus. “Rescuing Da Vinci,” a lavishly illustrated book devoted to them, with dozens of pictures newly unearthed from archives, has just been published by Robert M. Edsel, a retired Texas oilman. Mr. Edsel, 49, became obsessed with the story several years ago and even established a research office in Dallas, his hometown, with the goal of telling it better.

This month, in large part because of his work, Congress passed a resolution honoring the Monuments Men (whose number also included some women and civilians), saying that the value of their work “cannot be overstated and set a moral precedent” for the preservation of culture.

Mr. Edsel, who came late to an appreciation of art history, said in a recent interview that he became aware of the vast art-rescue story when he was living in Florence in the late 1990s and read “The Rape of Europa,” an award-winning book by Lynn H. Nicholas that chronicles the Third Reich’s pillaging of museums, churches and private collections.

The book goes into considerable detail about the formation and work of what became the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section of the United States military, some of whose members had art backgrounds and would go on to become civilian art-world luminaries, like James J. Rorimer, a future director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Lincoln Kirstein, then a lowly private but later a founder of the New York City Ballet. Most of the recovery effort was American, but soldiers from more than a dozen countries also participated.

Mr. Edsel quickly became frustrated, he said, as he combed through other World War II history books and found surprisingly little about what he thought was a gripping story of high-culture derring-do. “To me,” he said, “it was like, wow, you wrote a western and left out John Wayne. I couldn’t believe it.”

Armed with the kind of bluster and directness that made him wealthy in the oil business, Mr. Edsel sought out Ms. Nicholas “pretty much cold, ” he recalls. He asked for her guidance in putting together a book devoted exclusively to the Monuments Men, a book he eventually published himself, he said, because he got “absolutely no interest” from commercial publishers.

He paid researchers who set to work in Washington, Moscow, Munich and other cities. Even as this work was under way, he said, he knew that professionals in the art world like Nancy Yeide, curator of records at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, whom he approached about finding pictures, wondered whether he was just a well-meaning dilettante.

“I could tell that she didn’t know whether to trust me, whether to think I was a kook, whether it was like some vanity project,” he said.

But Mr. Edsel kept at it, putting $2.5 million of his own money toward the project. Over time he also became a co-producer of a documentary based on Ms. Nicholas’s book, which is now making the rounds of film festivals. He is planning exhibitions of the photographs and archival material featured in the book and is now crisscrossing the country trying to find and interviewing the few living members of the Monuments Men squad, like Mr. Taper.

“The problem is, we’re in a race with time now,” Mr. Edsel said in a recent interview in New York.

The urgency of that race was underlined last month by the death of S. Lane Faison Jr., 98, an art-rescue officer who worked for the Office of Strategic Services, which helped the Monuments Men. Mr. Faison later became a renowned art professor at Williams College whose students went on to become directors and curators at many prominent American museums.

Mr. Edsel interviewed Mr. Faison before his death and tracked down several other former officers who helped recover thousands of paintings and artifacts. One, Harry Ettlinger, now 80, joined the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives in 1945 and was assigned to sort out the contents of a vast makeshift storehouse in Heilbronn, Germany. It was a salt mine where the Nazis had hidden thousands of crates of loot, including all the stained glass removed from the Strasbourg Cathedral in France, which Mr. Ettlinger helped return.

In Mr. Edsel’s book Mr. Ettlinger can be seen in a crisp black-and-white photograph that could serve as the inspiration for a climactic movie scene: he and an officer are standing deep in the mine, staring in awe at a Rembrandt self-portrait that has just been raised from its crate.

But in a telephone interview Mr. Ettlinger said that much of the work done by the Monuments Men was not particularly cinematic. It was the tedious but immense job of archiving, translating documents, collating records and extracting needles from thousands of haystacks to ensure that works returned to their rightful homes. And it was frustrating: for every paper trail that led to a restitution, there were many more that led nowhere, and priceless works that were never found.

Of course, in the midst of the paperwork, there was a little wartime drama every so often down in the mine shafts, Mr. Ettlinger recalled.

“I remember once in a hallway I saw a doorway that was bricked in and no one knew what was behind it,” he said. He ordered someone to find out. “And lo and behold it was nitroglycerin, which was about to come along and blow us all to kingdom come, never mind the art.”

Mr. Edsel said the more he delved into the stories of the men, the more amazed he became at how little Americans seem to know about it, especially in an era with a newfound devotion to the Greatest Generation.

So, he was asked, is a feature film somewhere down the road?

He smiled and, in his best Texas dare-me voice, said not to rule it out.

“This has got heroes,” he said. “It’s got buried treasure. It’s got untold stories. It’s got everything. You want excitement? We’ve got it in spades right here.”

Salem church sets storied silver work on auction block

By Charles A. Radin, Boston Globe Staff | December 19, 2006

SALEM -- Selling the family silver is generally an act of financial distress, but at one of the oldest churches in North America, the situation is just the opposite.

The First Church in Salem, which was founded in 1629 and counted victims as well as judges in the Salem witch trials among its early members, is auctioning off 14 silver tankards, flagons, and beakers in hope of raising $1 million to accelerate growth in membership and programming that began in the late 1990s.

Most of the money will go to making the gray granite church building, which opened in 1836, fully accessible to people who are disabled.

The sale is embraced by a congregation whose roots stretch back to when Roger Williams, the third minister at the church, was shown the door in 1635 for preaching that was considered too radical. He went on to found Rhode Island.

"Our understanding of what is sacred has changed over the centuries," the Rev. Jeffrey Barz-Snell, First Church's pastor, said in an interview yesterday. Rather than hoard prized silver possessions dating to centuries when diversity of any kind was little tolerated, "the people involved in our church now are more concerned with other people, and with the broader community," he said.

The church is selling a fraction of its 70-piece collection, but some of the most important items in American silvercraft are going on the auction block Jan. 18.

They include a cup given to the church by John Higginson, a Salem merchant who interviewed alleged witches and witnesses and recorded their confessions during the Salem witch trials of 1692; a beaker made in 1670 by Jeremiah Dummer, the first native-born American silversmith; and a tankard by John Coney between 1690 and 1710, featuring a European baroque style found in American silver only in the work of Boston smiths.

The sale "is wildly exciting from an antique silver perspective," said Jeanne Sloane, head of the silver department at Christie's, the auction house handling the sale, which was first reported in The Salem News.

"When silver has been the property of a church, we know its provenance, and it has been under terrific care, not left out, not polished too much, not suffering from excessive wear."

In addition, she said, "the early congregations were radically Puritan, so they threw off the trappings of the Anglican high church predecessors they were rebelling against. You do not get engraved crucifixions . . . The pieces are not different from the regular kind of American silver that collectors want."

Sloane said that the goal of the auction is $1 million in sales, but that "there is no ceiling."

"If a couple of people decide this is the opportunity of a lifetime, you can get a price over the high estimate," she said.

That estimate includes valuations of $300,000 for the Coney tankard, $250,000 for the Dummer beaker, and $120,000 for the Higginson cup.

A flagon weighing more than 40 ounces, which Sloane called the single most important piece of silver ever made in Salem, is also to be auctioned, with an estimated top value of $120,000.

First Church will retain a Paul Revere silver set it uses for communion on special occasions, as well as a silver bowl used in baptisms here for more than 200 years.

This is the second high-profile sale of early American silver by a Massachusetts church in recent years. In 2001, United First Parish Church in Quincy, which was founded in 1639 and is the burial place of Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, sold 11 pieces, the value of which at auction had been estimated at around $1 million. The pieces sold for about $3 million.

In that sale, some people, including a former pastor, complained that the church was selling off its heritage; others were unhappy with the sale but felt the church had no choice, given a dwindling membership and a desperate need to fund repairs.

First Church in Salem has no such problems, Barz-Snell said.

"There is no urgency pushing this," he said. "It is the recognition that the church is growing, Salem is growing, and the church is poised, as a progressive Christian church, to become more involved with the broader community."

He said that the Unitarian church's membership is now about 130, about double what it was when he became pastor in 1998. He said two deacons proposed selling some of the highly valued silver after it became apparent that $300,000, raised from the membership to make the church handicapped accessible, was far short of what was needed.

"The decision was made by a democratic vote after considerable debate," Barz-Snell said.

"What is most important for us is the ability to serve our [church] community and the broader community," he said.

"Part of that is maintaining a building that is well maintained and accessible to all."

Thieves have attempted to steal the church's silver collection in the past, he said, stressing that the silver is stored in a secure location away from the church premises.

Art Hostage comments:

Hopefully the new owners of these silver pieces will loan them to public institutions so the public has access to them.
All too often,wonderful works of art are locked away, not only in private collections, but in bank vaults.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Art Crime Gang One Step Ahead of Bungling Police !!

Veteran lawyer Michael Morse, above, was accused of being a mastermind of a criminal gang that targeted antique stores and auction houses. All charges against him were dropped last week in court.

Connecting the dots in art-theft 'project'

The case unravels against a colourful cast of characters accused of high-end heists

It started with great fanfare two years ago and last week it appeared to unravel with the vindication of the supposed mastermind of one of its "cells," a veteran lawyer and Crown attorney.In October 2004, Toronto police announced they had cracked a theft ring that had been targeting high-end antique stores and auction houses. On display was some of the confiscated loot — an eclectic array of watches, coins, lamps, jewellery and designer coats, with an estimated value of $750,000.The charge sheet contained a colourful cast of characters besides the criminal lawyer, including a charming, old-time crook, two Russian brothers and a man once accused in a legendary court case.Police called it "Project Antique." Two years on, most of the original charges have either been dropped, thrown out or stayed. Then, last week in Superior Court, Justice Ian Nordheimer acquitted lawyer Michael Morse of all the charges he was facing. Charges against co-accused Joseph Gagne were also dropped, while Wayne Hines was convicted of weapons charges but nothing relating directly to the burglaries."The right hand of the Toronto police didn't know what the left hand of the Toronto police was doing," Morse said in an interview. Officers did not communicate basic facts to one another, take proper notes, or follow up obvious leads, Morse charged. He said it was only through the investigation that he and his lawyer, Anthony Bryant, conducted that key information was uncovered that cleared his name."It was Police Officer 101," Morse said. "They didn't have to go through all kinds of surveillance and employing officers of various squads to do this and that over a six-month period and spend many hundreds of thousands of dollars."Darryl Vincent, who turned 68 last week, had his charges stayed this fall while a single charge against Penny Sherman, 64, and six against Ira Hussey, 58, have also disappeared from the docket. Only Sergei Khatchaturov, 30, and sibling Yurii Khatchaturov, 24, still face charges connected to Project Antique.The genesis of the six-month investigation is almost as interesting as the ragtag group rounded up. Despite first appearances, those arrested as part of the two "cells" involved in "the organized theft of valuable artworks and antiques" were not connected in any way except by "absolute fluke, lucky" circumstances, says Rob Whelan, one of the investigators and now a sergeant at 55 Division.Connecting the dots poses a challenge.Some believe that what launched Project Antique was the high-profile theft in early 2004 of late billionaire Ken Thomson's treasured statues from a display case at the Art Gallery of Ontario.An elated Thomson got his statues back a day after police released video images from AGO security cameras showing "persons of interest" in the case. Lawyer Dennis Morris turned them over to police, citing solicitor-client privilege for keeping the identity of the suspects secret.The investigation, the public was told, was continuing.That was not the case. Much to the dismay of some officers involved in the AGO investigation, police brass — including former deputy chief Steve Reesor and with the knowledge of then Toronto police chief Julian Fantino — closed the file.But police who felt justice wasn't served started tailing the suspects, the Khatchaturov brothers, known to be clients of Morris. After it was robbed, Vincent and the older Khatchaturov were arrested.

`The right hand of the Toronto police didn't know what the left hand of the Toronto police was doing' Michael Morse, acquitted lawyer
Meanwhile, police investigating a January 2004 break-in at LuluLemon apparel store on Yonge St. zeroed in on international art thief Raymond Hobin, who was not above more mundane break and enters. It turned out he and Morse were co-signers for a Somerville rental truck similar to one seen leaving LuluLemon. Morse testified that he rented the truck partly so that Hobin, who he thought was a professional landscape architect, could conduct work at his home in east Toronto. Morse said that he had befriended Hobin, a sometime client, despite his criminal past, believing that he was trying to go straight in order to retain custody of his son.On April 14, 2004, police arrested Hobin in the LuluLemon break-in and in connection with another B and E at Norwalk the Furniture Idea, also on Yonge. When police questioned Hobin, who likely faced a long prison term if convicted, he claimed that he was coerced into the break-ins. He said Morse extorted him into joining his small ring of high-end antique-store thieves that included Hines and Gagne.He told police they targeted antique stores and other businesses to fulfill Morse's wish list."The police bought it hook, line and sinker," Morse's lawyer, Bryant, told the judge during the trial. "Raymond Hobin is not just a career criminal. He is a master con artist who has an uncanny ability to turn things inside out and upside down."Hobin took police on a tour, pointing out stores the gang had targeted. He said that Morse had stashed in his home two expensive tapestries the gang had stolen from Kantelberg Antiques on Davenport Rd. Police enlisted Hobin as their agent in a sting operation principally targeting Morse. In return he hoped for lenient treatment. A police source says investigators soon came to suspect the alleged Morse-led gang and AGO thieves were related "cells."In 2004, a surveillance team followed Morse to a house belonging to Penny Sherman, the one time "old squeeze" of a well-known Toronto rounder with her own criminal past. The police suspected Morse of laundering money though Sherman, his friend and former client, although the only charge laid against her in Project Antique — conspiracy to commit an indictable offence — was dropped last year. The net was cast wider, as it often is during these kinds of investigations, when Vincent literally walked onto the scene. "We followed Morse to Sherman's house, Morse leaves, and this unknown person to us, Darryl Vincent, shows up," says one of the police on the surveillance detail. Vincent and Sherman go back more than 40 years. One of the officers recognized the thief, whose criminal career stretches back five decades. This account then has the officers following Vincent, who leads them to an antique store in the company of another man. John Struthers was Vincent's lawyer. Sherman "sort of put a circle through it all," he said this week, sounding bemused about how Project Antique unfolded. "Darryl has some infamy with respect to thieving in Canada, but at the same time I'm not sure he had anything to do with any of this," said Struthers. "It's a strange world because people who are that good at thieving seem to somehow figure out who each other is."Vincent is less amused."You guys are being totally, totally used by the police," he said referring to media outlets who reported on the initial arrests. "They turned something that was never a project into a project."He also believes the police, "pissed off" about how the AGO theft was handled, targeted the Russians. Vincent, a veteran of art heists, was under surveillance after the thefts occurred, but denies having any part of it.Vincent has recovered most of the property seized by investigators and, not surprisingly, impugns their motives."They have to justify being paid. You have to get so many charges. That's why they have these RIDE programs right now — they're totally illegal, in my view," he says, adding that he's aware the Supreme Court of Canada sees it differently.

Who's Who

Five of those who faced charges in connection with Project Antique

Darryl Vincent, 68, has a criminal record that goes back 45 years with the vast majority of his run-ins with police involving the theft of high-end goods. He also has been convicted of similar crimes in several other parts of the world.

Penny Sherman (formerly Penny Yankula), who turns 65 next month, is no stranger to the criminal justice system. She was once charged with trafficking heroin and possessing a stolen mink coat.

Ira Hussey, 48, was one of the accused men in the so-called Askov case, in which charges were thrown out by the Supreme Court of Canada because they took too long to get to trial. In 1989, he was among 14 men charged after a police investigation into the $2 million theft of transport trailers packed with televisions, stereos and other pricey items.

Michael Morse, 59, is a defence lawyer who has practised for 30 years, including as a prosecutor. He is a married father of two boys, and collects antiques as a hobby. Police claimed he was the mastermind of a high-end antiques theft ring, but a judge acquitted him of all charges last Friday.

Raymond Hobin, 49, is an international art thief with multiple criminal convictions and several stints in jail. He was the Crown's star witness against Morse and two co-accused in the alleged antiques theft ring. A judge called him a charming con artist whose testimony was highly suspect. Morse called him the Prince of Darkness.