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Monday, July 04, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Art Loss Register, Radcliffe Hits Homer For 20% + VAT

From Cork rubbish tip to Sotheby's - but who owns $250,000 painting?

NEGOTIATIONS WILL take place in England later this week to try to resolve a protracted dispute about the ownership of a valuable painting linked to an Anglo-Irish family in Cork.
Children Under a Palm , a water colour by the Boston-born artist Winslow Homer (1836-1910), was found in the 1980s in Co Cork by an English tourist, Tony Varney.
The work was among a portfolio of paintings dumped close to a rubbish tip and was discovered by Mr Varney while on a fishing trip on the River Blackwater near Youghal.
Years later, in 2008, Mr Varney and his daughter Selina brought a number of the paintings to the BBC Antiques Roadshow to be valued. Experts there noted the signature of Homer on a watercolour and declared it to be a previously unknown - and very valuable - work by the artist.
A recent programme in the BBC Fake or Fortune ? documentary series outlined how events unfolded when the Varneys decided to consign the painting to auction at Sotheby's. By May 2009 the painting was up for sale, valued at $150-$250,000 (€103,000-€172,000) at Sotheby's New York.
But the sale was halted at the last minute when Simon Murray, a barrister and member of a Co Cork Anglo-Irish family, turned up in Manhattan to claim ownership for his family. Efforts to broker a deal between him and the Varneys were unsuccessful and the picture was withdrawn from the auction. The painting has been in legal limbo ever since and remains in the possession of Sotheby's.
Matthew Weigman, a Sotheby's director, told The Irish Times that "after two years in which the parties have failed to reach a settlement", the ownership of the painting "remains unclear as the claimant has provided no information about its whereabouts between the time of his family's ownership of the picture in the 1880s and its discovery by a relative of Sotheby's consignor 100 years later".
The picture was probably painted by Homer in 1885 during a visit to the Bahamas, then a British colony. The governor of the Bahamas from 1884-1887 was Sir Henry Arthur Blake, a Limerick-born British colonial administrator. It is believed the artist was a house-guest who painted Blake's three children - Olive, Maurice and Arthur -sitting under a palm plant dressed in exotic costumes for a fancy-dress party. Blake later served in Newfoundland and Jamaica and, eventually, as governor of Hong Kong before he and his wife, Lady Edith, eventually retired to Myrtle Grove, a historic house in Youghal, Co Cork.
Sir Henry and Lady Edith are buried in the garden at Myrtle Grove which is still owned by their descendents and is today home to Mr Murray's mother, Shirley.
Mr Murray, a great-great-grandson of Blake, declined to speak to The Irish Times . However, Julian Radcliffe, chairman of the Art Loss Register in London, spoke "on behalf of the family".
The Art Loss Register is an international company describing itself as "the world's largest private database of lost and stolen art, antiques and collectables" offering services including "item registration, search and recovery services to collectors, the art trade, insurers and worldwide law enforcement agencies".
Mr Radcliffe said the unframed painting was in a portfolio with other pictures and was stolen from the gate lodge at Myrtle Grove. He said the family did not report its theft to gardaĆ­ at the time because, although there had been a couple of minor burglaries at the property, they wereunaware that the portfolio was missing.
They were alerted to the New York auction by an article in the Daily Telegraph and contacted Sotheby's. GardaĆ­ in Youghal have confirmed that "a complaint has been made by the family and is being investigated".
Mr Radcliffe is meeting lawyers representing the Varney family in England this week and is "hoping to negotiate a settlement which would allow the picture to be returned to Ireland to the legal owner" who would decide whether to keep the painting or sell it.

Art Hostage Comments:
Out from the shadows steps Julian Radcliffe of the Art Loss Register to broker a deal.
For his services, the charge will be 20% plus 20% VAT
more to follow..................


Anonymous said...

I hope Simon Murray could provide legal document, will, house content insurance documents to back up his claim of ownership. He said Sothebys didn't contact his mother which was unlikely, and he said there were a number of burglaries and there were not such records.

I spotted several underhand tactics by him.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Really disturbing to watch how mr. Murray manipulates things to get some money. Rich people that want more money. Never enoug mr Murray??? Feel so sorry for the woman that could need that monay for higher cause than Blakes want is. I am sure the throw it as a garbage and when they heard that it´s worth money thair "familly" sences woke up.... yea rigt. I hope fishermans familly gets it leagaly and that Murray proves that he wants it for the familly sake and bye it from the familly for A LOT of monay. :-)

Anonymous said...

Dispicable what this Murray buffon did to the innocent Selina and her father. Shame on the Murrays. No proof of any stealing of the painting.

Anonymous said...

It was hard to watch how mr Simon Murray could lie with a straight face about not being notified by Sothebys,and to manipulate the letter of the law to serve his and his families greed.
This is not about the painting they simply had dollar signs in their eyes they saw a family connection and thought they could make a quick dollar,if the painting was so important to the family they surely would of realised it was missing.
In all of this i feel most for Selina and her four children shame on you mr simon murray.

beanman621 said...

Just goes to show when you have money that you can manipulate the system they never even realized that the painting was missing and low and behold when they find out taht its valuablle and taht they can shaft someone of low esteem BAM! they go in and find and little reason to screw the the little person..the least the family could do is offer her to recover her costs for refinishing it and offer her 50% and THEN sell reprints of the painting and split the profits 50-50 to help that family out that would be the RIGHT thing to do.

Aussi Snowman said...

I saw the program about this on Foxtel last night. It is clear to me the the only reason that the Blake family made a claim was because they suddenly saw how much it was worth. There is no way Sotheby' would not have been thorough, as they have to ensure clean title to the purchaser or they would be liable.
Simon Murray is an opportunist liar. The picture was not stolen,as the other paintings found with it are worthless. They were obviously thrown out with no understanding of their worth, around the time they were found.

cirish said...

Hold on a minute! This "proof" the Blakes have sounds identical to what was uncovered by the research team on "fake or fortune".In my opinion I think the best deal would be to throw the Blakes 10% to shut them up and put the brakes on any future claims and 90% go to Selina and her family.If the value of the piece itself is 50/50 its grossly unfair.It was Selina with the fake or fortune crew who took a dead object and brought it back to life-NOT an easy task in the art world where proving provanence is judged following rules that are notoriously arbitrary.If the Blakes still had it do you think they would have got off their asses and made the effort? Not a chance! I don't know why No ones asked the obvious of the Blakes - If they had a Winslow kicking around nobody knew or cared about what else do they have floating around their huge but hideous house. I wouldn't be surprised if a a missing page of the Magna Carta was discovered lining a sock drawer or a couple of dusty Faberege Eggs were found in a box of disused Christmas tree Ornaments up in the attic.

Clearly they need the money.Keeping the 21st century or anything remotely resembling reality at bay doesn't come cheap!Why leave 1912 if you don't have to?

elkgrandma said...

Interesting that it took Mr. Murray an entire year to come up with those copies of the letters, let us see the originals, please. Also,m isn't it interesting that he just happens to be a barrister! Let's hope the courts get it right and give ownership of the painting to Selina and make the Murrays pay all the court and legal costs they have made her incur in the past two years. After that, here's hoping the painting goes for 2 million!

Anonymous said...

Simon Murray and his whole family should be ashamed of them selves!! I to believe that in fact they themselves threw out the painting. I dont believe for a second that it was a burglar, why would someone steal a pile of unframed watercolours, just to dump them? No, much more likely, that the family themselves had a bit of a houseclearing! Mrs. Murray wasn´t interested, and knew nothing of the painting - but when her greedy little son found out, there was values up for grabs.... SHAME ON YOU, Simon Murray!!I don´t care if they can provide documents of ownership - because the dispute isn´t about that. The Blake family did at one point own the painting, BUT threw it away and forgot about it - until it was discovered that it had value. Selinas father found it at a city dump. SAVED the painting from exposure to the elements. Kept it for 20 years. FINDERS KEEPERS!!! I will say it again: SHAME ON YOU, SIMON MURRAY, greed is an awfull thing!

Anonymous said...

I believe the painting was tossed out during a clean out: Much easier than believing a tale of an unreported theft.Mr Murray has in fact called Sotherbys liars so I would give his credibility a score of ZERO. I hope Selina wins her case and is awarded all court costs as well.

Pat said...

Simon, liar, liar pants on fire.
Yes, if I was robbing a big house I'd take an invite to a party and other bits of paper. The man should be in jail for telling lies and using the system to intimidate others.
.? Visit by the police to discuss handling stolen goods?

I hope the police that had to do this duty realised how stupid they were.

Anonymous said...

So they hadnt noticed it missing in 20 years? No report of theft? No police crime reference number? I think this Blake family sound greedy. Hope they don't have money to pay for repairs to their house. How selena was treated is appalling. I hope she wins, but money talks. I also hope someone is paying selena legal fees.

I think it's fairly obvious they threw it away otherwise they would have missed it before 20 years. It couldn't have been that 'valuable' to them. In fact I bet they threw it away as junk.