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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Memo for Steven Spielberg, Chance To Redeem Yourself !!

Walking To Church by Norman Rockwell

Sad Family Portrait

Legal Furor Will Determine The Fate Of Norman Rockwell Treasures

By ALAINE GRIFFIN, Courant Staff Writer

STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. -- Marge Blair, a guide at the museum here that houses the largest collection of Norman Rockwell's original works, points tourists toward a painting of a teen-age girl in a plaid skirt and scuffed saddle shoes reading The Saturday Evening Post.

The painting, a gift Rockwell gave his friend Walt Disney one Christmas, is now part of the permanent collection at the museum, where Blair one recent afternoon celebrated its return.

"A few years ago, Walt Disney's daughter gave it back to us so we can all enjoy it today," Blair said during a guided tour of the work of one of America's most beloved illustrators.

But another painting's place on a wall nearby is not so certain, in part because its story does not share such goodwill. And though Blair stops her tour at this painting so admirers can observe its detail, she doesn't tell them that "Walking to Church," an April 3, 1953, Post cover of a Bible-toting family heading to Sunday morning services, could soon end up above the mantelpiece of a wealthy buyer, far from the eyes of the thousands who come to the museum each year.

Museum officials are keeping a close eye on an application filed last month in a probate court in Connecticut requesting the sale of "Walking to Church" and five other Rockwell paintings and sketches, including one of his portraits of President Eisenhower and the well-known "Gossips" and "Saying Grace." pictured bottom.

For more than a decade, the works have been on loan to the Norman Rockwell Museum, which opens its doors annually to about 160,000 visitors who come to view the wholesome, slice-of-life images Rockwell is known for creating. The museum, about 75 miles from Hartford, includes more than 570 paintings and drawings and an archive of more than 100,000 photographs, letters and other Rockwell items.
The request to sell the paintings is the latest legal move in a 14-year family wrangle winding though state, federal and probate courts over the estate of Rockwell friend and longtime Post art director Kenneth Stuart Sr. of Wilton, who died in 1993. Stuart worked closely with Rockwell during his illustration of 323 covers for the Post, work Rockwell did for the magazine for nearly five decades.

The estate of Stuart, an antiques lover, includes an impressive art collection that was left to his sons, Kenneth Jr., Jonathan and William. The works include six original Rockwell paintings and sketches Stuart said the illustrator gave him; all were were reproduced on Post covers, according to Superior Court records. The Manhattan auction house Sotheby's valued Stuart's collection at $3.5 million to $5.2 million in 1997, court records say, but dealers familiar with Rockwell paintings say their value is much higher. Stephen P. Wright, a Milford lawyer representing Kenneth Stuart Jr., said the collection is probably worth about $30 million.

Kenneth Jr., 65, of Norwalk, Stuart's oldest son and named executor of his father's estate, wants to sell the paintings, claiming "market conditions are such that" the paintings "are likely to receive a favorable price," according to his application filed Feb. 5 in Norwalk Probate Court.

But William Stuart, 63, of Massachusetts and his younger brother, Jonathan Stuart, 61, of New York, who have accused their brother of using the estate assets to maintain "a lifestyle he was unable to afford before he became executor," object to the sale of the paintings. They cite a pending application of their own that seeks to have him removed as executor, according to Norwalk probate records.

The fight among the Stuart brothers has raised questions about how long the paintings will be in the public domain. Potential new owners for "Walking to Church," "Gossips" and "Saying Grace" - the latter once voted the most popular Saturday Evening Post cover by readers - may not choose to keep the paintings at the Rockwell museum, where they have been on loan since 1994.

"These works are some of Norman Rockwell's best-known images," said Stephanie Plunkett, the museum's chief curator. "We're fortunate to have had the opportunity to have them at the museum for so long, so this is a big issue for us. Would we love to have the paintings here? Absolutely. Having the paintings on loan here has been a great advantage for the public because they've had the opportunity to view Rockwell's master works in their original form. But since it's under the jurisdiction of the courts, we don't know how it's going to turn out."

The case has been kept in limbo by Kenneth Jr.'s October 2005 bankruptcy filing, a 2002 injunction barring him from touching the estate's assets and acting as executor and a legal fight the brothers recently won against the Post's parent company, Curtis Publishing, over ownership of the paintings.

But that could change Tuesday in a bankruptcy courtroom in Bridgeport, where Wright, one of Kenneth Jr.'s lawyers, said he will agree to let the probate court matters proceed.

"We're trying to move forward with this," Wright said. "We want to sell the paintings."

Kenneth Jr. filed for bankruptcy 15 months after Superior Court Judge Taggart D. Adams ruled in June 2004 that the son had exercised undue influence over his father in acquiring the estate's assets and had breached his fiduciary duties. Adams said Kenneth Jr. was liable for statutory theft and unjust enrichment and ordered him to pay nearly $2.4 million to the estate.

Kenneth Jr. is appealing Adams' ruling in the state's Appellate Court.

In his decision, Adams considered allegations by the brothers that when their father was suffering from dementia, Kenneth Jr. convinced him to put his assets - including the Rockwell works - into a family limited partnership. The partnership, in which Kenneth Jr. would serve as general partner, was a way to decrease estate taxes, the records say.

The brothers said Kenneth Jr. used estate funds to pay for his daughter's BMW and college tuition and for alimony to his ex-wife, according to court records. Kenneth Jr. "testified candidly that certain funds in the trust were used to pay his personal expenses," but claimed he was owed commissions for running the partnership, Adams wrote in his decision,.

In his ruling, Adams calls the 14-year dispute over the estate a "divisive family saga." There were lengthy discovery disputes, "documentary evidence in excess of 20,000 pages" and an eight-week trial in the fall of 2003. A special master was also assigned to take possession of "voluminous partnership files and to oversee the partnership affairs," according to Adams' ruling.

Through their attorney, Sandra Akoury, both Jonathan Stuart and William Stuart declined to be interviewed for this story. Kenneth Stuart Jr. did not return a call for comment.

Wright said selling the paintings "is the only way" Kenneth Jr. can satisfy the nearly $2.4 million judgment against his client. Wright said in the current market, "Saying Grace," which shows a grandmother and grandson with bowed heads praying before their meal in a crowded restaurant, could sell for between $20 million and $25 million.

Last November, the Rockwell painting "Lincoln the Railsplitter," which shows a young Abraham Lincoln, was sold at auction for $1.6 million to the Butler Institute of American Art in Ohio. That same month, the more well-known "Breaking Home Ties" by Rockwell sold for $15.4 million at auction, more than double its estimated price of $4 million to $6 million, according to a Sotheby's auction house release.

With sale numbers that high, Plunkett said, it would be difficult for the museum to buy paintings from the Stuart collection if they ended up for sale.

"We unfortunately would not be in a position necessarily to bid on something in the range of what we've been seeing for Norman Rockwell's iconic works," Plunkett said. "But oftentimes, people are generous and when they purchase art, they consider putting it out for display. We're always hoping people think of us as a repository for Rockwell's work."

Plunkett said museum officials were thrilled in 1999 when they learned Disney's daughter wanted to return Rockwell's gift to her father. Those at the Butler Institute felt the same way when the museum was able to purchase "Lincoln the Railsplitter." For years, it hung in the home of Texas billionaire and onetime presidential candidate H. Ross Perot. Once the museum had the painting, it held an unveiling party for the first public showing in many years.

"I think it's wonderful that our collection is available to the public every day, especially to people who are scholars," said Kathy Earnhart, the Butler Institute's director of public relations. The museum, which showcases the works of such American artists as Mary Cassatt and Edward Hopper, had searched for a Rockwell to add to their collection. But like the Rockwell museum's bank account, the Butler's checkbook cannot always compete with the money a wealthy private bidder can spend.

"It is difficult for us because the prices are so exorbitant," Earnhart said.

But it can be done, said Patricia Shippee, a fine art appraiser and consultant in Connecticut and New York City. Shippee pointed to the recent fight two Philadelphia museums waged to keep American artist Thomas Eakins' "The Gross Clinic" in that city.

When Thomas Jefferson University announced it was selling the painting for $68 million to a partnership of Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, arts supporters in Philadelphia held a fundraising drive to keep it from being sold.

In the end, the painting, considered Eakins' masterpiece, was purchased jointly by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Both will exhibit the painting.

"It depends on how much the museum wants it," Shippee said. "It could be that there will be enough people who will care about the Rockwell museum to keep the paintings there."

Rockwell, himself, thought it was important to keep his works in the public domain, Plunkett said.

When he learned a museum with his work was going to be opened, Rockwell donated a number of his paintings in trust to the museum and went searching for paintings he had given away or sold so they could be displayed.

The museum is getting ready to host a series of traveling exhibitions for people who are unable to get to Stockbridge, Rockwell's home during the later years of his life.

"I do believe that Norman Rockwell realized it was important to gather a significant collection of his work for the public," Plunkett said. And one way Rockwell was able to do this was by getting his work on the cover of the Post, she said.

"Rockwell once called the magazine the greatest show window in America for an illustrator," Plunkett said. "The ability for his work to be seen by the masses was extremely important to him. He believed he worked for the public."


Art Hostage comments:

What a wonderful way for Steven Spielberg to redeem himself from the stolen Rockwell debacle than to personally step in and purchase the disputed Rockwell's and donate them back to the Rockwell Museum he himself helped to found.

By this selfless action Steven Spielberg can put aside any doubts about his honesty surrounding the Russian Schoolroom scandal.

What is a mere $30 million when you are worth $1 billion, or close too.

How much honest, legitimate profit did Mr Spielberg earn from Dreamworks?

I am sure the $30 million can be offset against some tax anyway.

Mr Spielberg do the right thing and join Mr Ron Lauder as a true decent Honourable generous first class 21st century Philanthropist.
Saying Grace by Norman Rockwell.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Honest Diamond Dealers, Oxy Moron !!

Thieves stole the gems from this bank in the Pelikaanstraat, in the heart of Antwerp's diamonds district.

$28M diamonds thief 'was customer'

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- Belgian police have offered a €2 million ($2.6 million) reward for tips that help them track down a man who stole €21.3 million ($28 million) worth of diamonds from an Antwerp bank last week.

Prosecutors said they are searching for a man who broke into open safety deposit boxes in an ABM Amro bank in the city's diamond quarter.

Police are unsure how he did it but believe he may have carefully planned the robbery, becoming one of several trusted diamond traders given an electronic card to access the vault. The suspect had been a regular customer at the bank for the past year, giving the name Carlos Hector Flomenbaum from Argentina.

They now believe that the suspect was using a false identity because a passport in that name was stolen in Israel a few years ago.

They released a composite photo of a gray-haired man, 1.90 meters (6 foot 3) tall and aged between 55 and 60. They said he speaks English with an American accent and often wears a baseball cap, and they are appealing to anyone who got to know him during his time in the city to come forward.

The bank discovered the theft on March 5, believing that someone took the stones that Monday morning or the previous Friday from a vault used by pawnbrokers and diamond cutters.

Police did not say why they had waited over a week before making the theft public, nor did they mention who had put up the reward money.

The stolen diamonds weigh 120,000 carats and include some very unusual stones, police said.

The diamonds will be difficult to sell on world markets, said Philip Claes, spokesman for the Antwerp Diamond Council. He told Belgium's RTL-TVI television network the haul included both cut gems and rough diamonds which cannot be sold without certificates of origin to show they have not come illegally from war zones.

In 2003, in the world's largest safe-deposit box theft, thieves in Antwerp prized open 123 boxes, finding so much loot they could only carry away $100 million worth of diamonds, gold and jewelry.

More than half the world's diamonds are traded in Antwerp's gem district, a maze of tiny streets hugging the main train station. Its turnover of $23 billion a year makes it one of the densest concentrations of valuables on earth.
Art Hostage comments:
Before the insurance company pays out on this claim they must investigate the inside job and the real prospect that these diamonds will return through the Antwerp market when the Insurance money has been received.
The same people who were robbed will no doubt be involved in the illegal trading of these diamonds. It is well known in the Diamond trade that they have an insurance claim now and again. It is the honest policy holders who pick up the tab for these criminal diamond dealers.
Just try and collect the reward and you will see that not only will the reward not be forthcoming, but if you have real decent intelligence you will be hung out to dry.
Best guess, Semi, from Russia will be the person who may become the new owner of these stolen diamonds, if they were really stolen.

Croat ex-general arrested for wartime diamond theft

Reuters Thursday, 15 March 2007

VIENNA: Austrian police have arrested a Croatian ex-general sought on suspicion of stealing $US5 million ($NZ7.34 million) worth of diamonds entrusted to him in an arms deal during Croatia's secession war, Austria said.

The ex-general and former deputy defence minister, Vladimir Zagorec, was arrested in his office in Vienna after Croatia issued an international arrest warrant on Monday, Interior Ministry spokesman Rudolf Gollia said.

Zagorec has been living in Austria since 2000, Gollia said. The authorities knew his whereabouts and he had made no attempt to hide or resist arrest, he said. A judge will decide on Wednesday whether he will remain in detention.

Zagorec's Austrian law firm Lansky, Ganzger told the Austrian news agency APA their client denied the charges brought by Croatia, dismissing them as a political ploy. They said the arrest was unwarranted as Zagorec did not try to escape or hide.

According to Croatian media reports, authorities suspect that Zagorec received diamonds from an arms dealer to guarantee the dealer's delivery of anti-aircraft rockets worth $US5 million during Croatia's 1991-1995 war of secession from the former Yugoslavia.

The authorities allege that he did not record the deposited diamonds in the ministry's books and took them with him when he left his post.

If You Want To Know The Time, Ask a Policeman, For Everything Else Demand Payment, Or Tell Police To Go Fuck Themselves !!

Pricey antiques stolen from house

Some £50,000 worth of antiques was stolen from a home in Hardington Mandeville, Somerset, police said.
The haul included an antique Victorian desk, an antique wine cooler as well as numerous works of arts and decorative ornaments.

They were taken on the night of 21 January, an Avon and Somerset Police spokesman said.

Police hope antiques dealers in the region who may have been offered some of the items will come forward.

Art Comments:

As ever police want help doing their job.

If you are an honest lawabiding member of the public who stumbles across any information regarding these stolen antiques call the police and give them the tip. you will not get any reward but you will be doing your public duty and helping the lazy Police to continue to let others do their job.

If however, you are conected to the antiques trade and have information about these stolen antiques, keep it to yourself as you will not be rewarded and the criminals will hunt you down and make you feel like you have been fucked by an Elephant.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Art and Antiques with a profit, only when a Thief holds a sale !!

Thief opens shop, sells stock
07/03/2007 09:09

Brussels - A Belgian antique dealer returned from holiday to find a thief had broken into his shop, opened it for business and sold his stock.

While Johan Dumon, 62, from Mechelen, was away the burglar stole valuables from his shop and also his home and held a two day sale.

Neighbours didn't find the sale suspicious - even though the shop had been closed for three years, reports De Morgen.

"I can only conclude the burglar was a clever man," said Mr Dumon. "Instead of dragging it all out of the house he sold it on the spot."

Dumon said the stolen antiques were worth at least €17 000.

Police have spoken to witnesses who attended the sale and have been able to release a description of the man.

Attorney Goedele Van den Brande is confident the man will soon be found - but he says recovering the stolen goods could be impossible as 'purchasers' cannot be forced to return them. -

Art Hostage comments:

I must say this story raised a smile, the sheer nerve of thieves never fails to amaze me.

However, it does prove that the only way to buy a bargin from an Antiques dealer is if the stock is bought via a thief.

I am sure this thief will be caught and will be someone known to the loser.

There must an element of an inside job for this to happen.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

London Art and Antiques Mafia Breathe a Sigh of Relief, Business as Usual !!

Laughing All The Way Too The Bank

Antiques Trade Gazette

BAMF defuse threat from London Bill

THE London trade can breathe a sigh of relief. The British Art Market Federation (BAMF) have won their battle to stop a new Government Bill introducing draconian measures to regulate the capital’s dealers and auction houses.

The London Local Authorities Bill had included proposals to substantially boost police powers of entry, search and seizure. There were also new requirements for dealers in second-hand goods to register with their local councils and plans to tie up business further with complex record keeping.

The Bill follows earlier legislation, including the Kent Act, aimed at preventing the illegal trade in second-hand goods. Although not specifically targeted at the art and antiques trade, it draws dealers and auctioneers into its ambit.

BAMF supported targeted legislation to deal with the problem of crime, but felt the measures proposed by the Bill were not targeted properly and risked causing serious damage to legitimate business interests. As a result,BAMF chairman Anthony Browne and President Lord Brooke launched a solitary but rigorous campaign against the proposals. Among their concerns-later shared by the Home Office and three other departments-were the hugely enhanced police powers being proposed. Police Officers would have been able to gain entry to property and to search for and seize goods without a warrant.

Now, however, it has been agreed that the entire section of the Bill affecting these powers, Part Four, will be dropped.

"I am glad that the promoters of the LLA Bill have finally acknowledged the strong case made by BAMF against the measures proposed in Part 4," said Mr Browne. "The complicated requirement for all dealers and auction houses in London to register with their local councils, to keep duplicate records and to be subject to unprecedented and, in our view, unjustified police powers of entry, search and seizure of property would have enveloped the second largest art market in the world in an unnecessary added layer of bureaucracy."

Art Hostage comments:

For anyone interested in trying to prevent art related crime this decision is a real kick in the bollocks.

As we speak, art crooks are putting up stolen art all over their houses knowing that the police will not come looking because of the clear evidence needed to obtain a warrant for a search.

Big, big, victory for the art criminals and the stolen art trade in London.

Should have said that stolen art funds terrorists, then these rules would have been implemented.

Not only have art loss investigators got handcuffs on, Law enforcement is now going to be wearing blind-folds.

Back to the book-keeping for Vernon Rapley, Head of Scotland Yard's Art and Antiques Squad.

Good old Vernon Rapley, below, gives his opinion on the news he can go back to sitting on his ass twiddling his thumbs, waiting for his pension.

This is yet another example of a Twenty four carat Govt fuck up, and that's a memo.

Borat Best Buddies Burnham Latest Heist !!

Men hunted over jewellery theft

One of the men, left, was described as having an irritation in his eye

Two men who stole £6,000 worth of jewellery from an antiques shop in Somerset are being hunted by police.
The men went into Castle Antiques in Victoria Court, Burnham-on-Sea, last Thursday afternoon and asked to look at a piece of jewellery.
They left, but returned about 15 minutes later and snatched several gold chains and bracelets while the owner tried to stop them.
The pair were described as white, aged 25 to 35. They both wore dark clothing.
One of the thieves is about 5ft 8ins (1.8m) tall, of stocky build, with a slight beard and an irritation in his left eye.
The second man, who was slightly taller, was of slimmer build.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

How Long Before We See Eastern European Knocker Boys, Good Mornski Mam, Looking For Old Antiquiski's

Thieves, the next generation !!


AN eight-year-old boy was among a gang of jewellery thieves who raided an antiques shop in Ulverston yesterday.

Five men and their young accomplice stole £3,000 worth of gold jewellery from the Isis shop on Market Place.

Sharp-eyed owner Pam Livermore stopped the gang — described as eastern European — from escaping with more after spotting the gang’s tiny “Artful Dodger” with his hands in a display cabinet.

The loot included five gold rings and gold bracelets.

Mrs Livermore said: “It was scary. I couldn’t approach them because there were so many of them and I was on my own.

“They were talking a foreign language and I asked them where they were from and they told me they were Polish, but I’m not sure whether I believe them.

“The men were trying to distract me by looking at the gold chains, then I noticed the boy had his hand in a cabinet.

“They left and we’ve now discovered they took about £3,000 of gold jewellery. It’s a shock to have something like this happen. I’m very upset today, but we will be opening the shop.”

Police — who suspect the group may gave travelled up from Morecambe — are appealing for witnesses to the theft, which took place at 12.15pm yesterday.

They believe the six may be serial jewellery thieves and are linking the crime to similar incidents in Grange, Whitehaven and Mary-port.

An Ulverston police spokesman said: “We believe there could be a link between these incidents because of the modus operandi and in each case jewellery was stolen.

“Today we will be speaking to officers who have dealt with the other cases.

“We believe the gang to be of eastern European origin and the child to be around eight years old.

“No further description is available at this stage.”

The men are described as dark skinned and aged between 34 and 45.

Anyone with any information can contact Ulverston police on 0845 3300 247.


THIS is the real-life Artful Dodger who is being used to steal thousands of pounds worth of gold in South Cumbria.

The gang of ruthless jewellery raiders employ the eight-year-old in a similar role to the juvenile thief in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist.

The four adult accomplices distract store staff while the boy helps himself to goods.

But police are confident they will nail the "Dodger" and his gang after they were caught on CCTV during an unsuccessful attempt to steal from Johnston’s Jewellers in Grange.

This raid was followed by the theft of £3,500 worth of gold rings and bracelets from an Ulverston antiques shop.

Johnston’s owner Gary Johnston told the Evening Mail: "We had three members of staff watching them so I think they realised they weren’t going to get away with anything from us.

"I’m relieved my staff were so vigilant. When I heard about the Ulverston theft I was shocked. You don’t like to hear about such things happening. I got in touch with the police straight away and handed over our CCTV tapes.

"We have good security here. Our valuables are kept locked away and we have the CCTV camera."

Police are now warning businesses in Furness and South Lakeland to be on their guard after at least five jewellers and banks in Morecambe, Seascale, Whitehaven and Workington, as well as Grange and Ulverston, were targeted. The biggest haul came from Pam Livermore’s

Isis antiques shop in Market Place, Ulverston, on Wednesday.

Mrs Livermore, who runs the shop with her husband Terry, said the morning after the raid: "It’s such a shock for something like this to happen. The men were speak ing a language I didn’t understand and distracting me by rifling through the gold chains.

"Then I noticed the kid with his hands in the bracelet cabinet and they escaped."

Police on Friday confirmed they are linking all the incidents.

A police spokeswoman said: "The group were filmed on CCTV cameras acting suspiciously at Johnston’s Jewellers in Grange shortly after a theft in Ulverston.

"The footage shows a boy of about seven to eight accompanied by four adult males believed to be of eastern European origin who are now being sought in connection with at least five incidents throughout the county.

"At about 12.15pm, £3,500-worth of gold rings and bracelets was taken from Isis antique shop.

"Two hours later the group are alleged to have fraudulently obtained £360 from a high street bank in Seascale."

The young boy was last seen wearing a distinctive woolly hat with a peak and a black jacket with red piping.

The men have all been described as being aged between 30 and 45, having dark hair, wearing black leather jackets and track suit bottoms.

One of the men is slightly older, with a receding hairline.

Anyone who can identify the group or has any information regarding the incidents should contact DC Liz Wheatman on 0845 33 00 247.

In a separate incident three other eastern Europeans pulled a scam in Barrow’s Tesco store on Friday.

They produced approximately £260 and asked a cashier to change it into notes of a different denomination.

When that had been done they asked for it changing again, this time for different notes, as part of a nationwide scam called Ringing the Changes.

The staff member became confused and the three left having taken about £20.

The three all had dark skin and dark hair. They were around 5ft 3in tall, spoke broken English and are aged in their mid-20s to early 30s.

Shops, banks and customers are urged to be vigilant.

Anyone with information should contact Cumbria Police on 0845 33 00 247.