Category: Art theft

Supreme Court won't hear looted-art claim against Norton Simon

June 27, 2011 |  3:35 pm

CranachAdamEve The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday decided not to take up an appeal from Marei Von Saher, who is trying to wrest a prized, 480-year-old “Adam and Eve” diptych by Lucas Cranach the Elder from the Norton Simon Museum, where the paintings have hung since the 1970s.

“We will continue to fight … until justice is achieved,” Von Saher said in a statement issued Monday by her attorney, Lawrence Kaye.

The Connecticut resident had hoped the Supreme Court would clear a procedural roadblock as she tried to prove that the paintings -- looted from her father-in-law, the noted Dutch-Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker, when he fled the Nazi invasion of Holland in 1940 -- should return to his family because they never received proper recompense.

The Norton Simon’s position is that “Adam and Eve” were included in a settlement the heirs agreed to with the Dutch government in 1952 -- and that Von Saher, who sued in 2007, waited far too long to file a claim, the statute of limitations having long run out.

It's the statute of limitations issue that the Supreme Court declined to hear.

Continue reading »

What does Whitey Bulger know about the 1990 Gardner Museum art heist?

June 23, 2011 |  6:45 pm

Whiteybulger This post has been corrected. Please see note at bottom for details.

In 1990, two men dressed as police officers broke into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and stole a Vermeer, five Degas and three Rembrandts.

The masterpieces and four other paintings stolen that day are estimated to be worth more than $500 million.

Two decades later, the case remains stubbornly unsolved. It has been called “the holy grail of art crime.”

But with the arrest in Santa Monica Wednesday of notorious Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger, many in the art world are now asking: Could it provide a break in the greatest art heist in American history?

Rumors have long swirled that Bulger, the head of the city’s powerful Irish American mob at the time, may have played a role -- or must have known who did.

Continue reading »

Will James Cuno change the Getty, or will the Getty change James Cuno?

May 12, 2011 |  8:45 am

Getprev-2 No issue has consumed the American art world over the last two decades like the collecting of ancient art.

In recent years, museums, collectors and dealers have been linked to the black market in recently looted antiquities, forcing the return of hundreds of ancient objects to Italy and Greece.

As described in Ralph Frammolino's and my forthcoming book, "Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest Museum," the J. Paul Getty Trust was scarred worse than most in the ensuing scandal. The museum's former antiquities curator was criminally indicted in Italy, and it returned about 40 ancient masterpieces after its history of shady collecting practices came to light.

But the Getty emerged from that scandal as a leading reformer, showing that loans and cooperation with foreign governments can successfully replace a reliance on a corrupt antiquities market.

So it was a surprise to many when Getty board members announced Monday that they had hired James Cuno to be the Getty’s new president and chief executive officer. The previous CEO, James Wood, died last June.

Getprev-5 Cuno, currently director of the Art Institute of Chicago, has been an outspoken critic of attempts to curb the trade in antiquities. In two books and in his public lectures, he has labeled the efforts of foreign governments to control their ancient heritage "nationalist." And he openly laments the legal limits museums face when buying ancient art with murky ownership histories.

In an interview with the Times, Cuno struck a somewhat awkward pose, vowing to enforce the Getty's strict collecting guidelines while standing behind his public criticism of such policies.

The dissonance between Cuno's past and future leaves many wondering: Will the Getty change Cuno, or will Cuno change the Getty?

-- Jason Felch

Upper photo: The Getty Center campus. Credit: Robbin Goddard / Los Angeles Times

Lower photo: James Cuno at the Art Institute of Chicago. Credit: Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune

Getty Museum to return 17th century Dutch painting lost in the Holocaust

March 29, 2011 | 11:03 am


The Getty Museum is returning another work of art that has turned out to be stolen goods, this one a Dutch landscape painting that was one of about 1,400 works left behind by Jacques Goudstikker, a noted Dutch-Jewish art dealer who fled the Nazi invasion of 1940.

The 370-year-old oil painting by Pieter Molijn isn't a masterpiece like some of the prized antiquities the Getty has sent back to Italy. When it was acquired at auction in 1972, "Landscape with Cottage and Figures" was believed to be by Jan van Goyan, but its authorship was later revised.

The Getty says the painting, which it never exhibited, was acquired "in good faith" but is being returned now because cooperative research by its own staff and experts working for Goudstikker's daughter-in-law, Marei von Saher, showed it was among the pieces the ill-fated Goudstikker had catalogued in a notebook at the time he fled.

Von Saher is after a far more prized work that hangs in Southern California: Lucas Cranach the Elder's "Adam and Eve" diptych, a highlight of the Norton Simon Museum's collection that has become the object of a long-running court battle.

Click here for the full story on the Getty's latest art return.


CranachAdamEve Antiquities: Italian official seeks return of "Getty Bronze"

Norton Simon's disputed "Adam and Eve" getting closer look from Supreme Court

The Norton Simon Museum is battling to keep "Adam" and "Eve"

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: "Landscape with Cottage and Figures," by Pieter Molijn. Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum


Monster Mash: Analyzing the 2011 Pritzker Prize winner; Getty Museum to return Nazi-looted painting

March 29, 2011 |  7:30 am


Winner: Portugal's Eduardo Souto de Moura has won the 2011 Pritzker Prize, the top international award in architecture. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne offers his analysis. (Los Angeles Times)

Changing hands: The J. Paul Getty Museum has agreed to return a 17th century painting looted by the Nazis. (Los Angeles Times)

Staying away: Attendance at Los Angeles museums lags behind smaller cities, according to a new report. (Los Angeles Times)

Farley Granger dies: The film actor, who had many Broadway and other theater credits, was 85. (Associated Press, via Los Angeles Times)

No deal: Universal Pictures won't be producing the film version of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical "In the Heights." (Deadline)

A bit young, perhaps?: Ralph Fiennes is to play Prospero in Shakespeare's "The Tempest" on London's West End, starting in late August. (Variety)

On the waves: Classical music is getting a second radio outlet in the L.A. area. (Los Angeles Times)

Saved: A Vienna photo gallery, along with a group of entrepreneurs, has acquired a collection of several thousand Polaroid prints by well-known artists, including Andy Warhol, that were in danger of being auctioned off. (New York Times)

Deadline: Striking musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra said they have been given until Friday to make a deal with management. (Associated Press, via Chicago Tribune)

For sale: The Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York is planning to auction off a 19th century painting to fund new projects. (New York Times)

Deadlock: Musicians of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra are refusing to go along with $1.3 million in salary and benefit concessions. (Syracuse Post-Standard)

Also in the L.A. Times: Art critic Christopher Knight reviews "Vija Celmins: Television and Disaster, 1964-1965" at LACMA.

-- David Ng

Photo: Eduardo Souto de Moura. Credit: Miguel Manso / Associated Press

Getty 'goddess' gets a brass band welcome in Sicily

March 22, 2011 |  3:55 pm


Pomp met circumstance the other day in the small, eastern Sicilian hilltown of Aidone, Italy, when a brass band greeted a truck bearing crates holding the "Cult Statue of a Goddess," the larger-than-life-sized acrolithic sculpture that was once a centerpiece of the Getty Villa at the edge of Malibu. The sculpture is the most important antiquity returned to Italy in the Getty's 2007 restitution agreement over looted art.

Now known to locals as the "Aidone Venus" and disassembled into pieces for safty in the move, the sculpture will eventually be reassembled for display in the Aidone Archaeological Museum. Last December, 16 silver-gilt objects returned by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art also went on view at the museum. Like the cult statue, the silver is believed by many to have been looted more than 30 years ago from an archaeological dig at a nearby ancient Greek settlement.

Because the Sicilian region is earthquake-prone, the Getty also provided the special seismic-base built for the statue during its years of display in Los Angeles. (The base allows the massive stone figure to move in case of a tremor.) The Getty bought the sculpture in 1988 for $18 million.

For more on the return of "Cult Statue of a Goddess" to Italy, click here.


Baroque Court hearing coming over a Baroque painting looted by Nazis

Charges dismissed against ex-Getty curator Marion True by Italian judge

Getty announces venture with Italian museum




-- Christopher Knight

Monster Mash: Eli Broad talks about his art collection; a conductor for Prince William and Kate Middleton

March 21, 2011 |  7:51 am

Broad Personal tour: Eli Broad opens the doors to his Brentwood home and talks about his art collection. (Los Angeles Times)

Royal engagement: Christopher Warren-Green will conduct the London Chamber Orchestra at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in April. (Hamilton Spectator)

Lost and found: Spanish police have published a catalog of recovered stolen art, including pieces by Picasso. (Associated Press via the Guardian)

Spider-Man steps: Another day, another change at "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark"? (Bloomberg)

Spider-Man snips: Screenwriter Neil Jordan dishes about director Julie Taymor. (New York Post)

Arts philanthropist: A conversation with Henry Segerstrom, the businessman and benefactor behind the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. (Los Angeles Times)

For sale: Massachusetts' Clark Art Institute recently tried to deaccession a Renoir artwork at the Maastricht Art Fair. (New York Times)

Taking the stand: Robert De Niro recently testified in a case against a gallery owner accused of fraud involving artwork by the actor's father. (New York Daily News)

Cinematic: Opera singer William Shimell talks about his first screen role, opposite Juliette Binoche, in "Certified Copy." (San Francisco Chronicle)

Folding: A North Carolina museum devoted to telling the history of the Appalachia region is closing due to steep budget cuts. (Associated Press via MSNBC)

Nightscape: The poster for Woody Allen's new movie, "Midnight in Paris," uses Van Gogh's "Starry Night." (Indiewire)

Also in the L.A. Times: Music critic Mark Swed reviews Philip Glass' "Akhnaten" at Long Beach Opera; theater critic Charles McNulty reviews Conor McPherson's "The Weir" at South Coast Repertory; a talk with John Leguizamo on his new Broadway show "Ghetto Klown."

-- David Ng

Photo: Eli and Edythe Broad, in front of a work by Robert Rauschenberg, at their L.A. home. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Court hearing coming over a Baroque painting looted by Nazis

March 7, 2011 |  2:31 pm

StrozzipaintingAn Italian criminal court is scheduled to hold a hearing Tuesday in Milan in a case involving a Baroque masterpiece looted from a private collection in Florence during World War II.

The hearing is just one taking place among three -- count 'em, three -- suits underway in criminal, civil and administrative jurisdictions in the tangled tale, as my colleague Jori Finkel recently reported.) Missing for nearly 70 years, the stolen painting turned up on the Italian art market last summer. An export license allowing the painting to leave the country has been denied.

The facts around how Bernardo Strozzi's full-length figure of St. Catherine of Alexandria, painted circa 1615, was looted by the Nazis are not in dispute. The picture had been seized from its expatriate American owner in 1942 by the prefect of Florence under anti-Jewish "racial laws" issued by the Italian fascist regime.

That was bad enough. But now the story is marked by an appalling irony.

The Italian government spent several years in noisy litigation, retaliatory threats and indignant international public relations campaigns over what officials said were antiquities looted from Italian archaeological sites and housed in several American museum collections. Among those museums was the Getty Villa in Los Angeles, which agreed in 2007 to send back 40 disputed objects to Italy.

And who is the American heir to the Florentine collector whose looted Strozzi painting is now being tied up in tortuous Italian criminal, civil and administrative hearings?

Continue reading »

Monster Mash: Smithsonian chief talks censorship in Los Angeles visit; Eli Broad's new museum gets more support

January 21, 2011 |  8:41 am


Under fire: The head of the Smithsonian Institution visited Los Angeles on Thursday and offered a defense of his decision to remove "A Fire in My Belly" from the National Portrait Gallery in December, while also admitting that it was hasty action. (Los Angeles Times)

Big bucks: Los Angeles redevelopment commissioners agreed Thursday to spend up to $52 million to build parking and other improvements around billionaire Eli Broad's planned downtown art museum. (Los Angeles Times)

Climactic: Broadway's "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" has a new finale sequence. (Entertainment Weekly)

Title role: Heather Jane Rolff has been cast as the plus-sized protagonist of Neil LaBute's "Fat Pig," opening in the spring on Broadway. (Playbill)

Retiring: Melody Kanschat, the president of the L.A. County Museum of Art, will step down from her post in May. (Los Angeles Times)

Suspect: A 27-year-old was arrested Thursday in connection with the theft and vandalism of seven bronze sculptures belonging to the Ratner Museum in Maryland. (Washington Post)

D-list: A look at art created by "Jersey Shore" star Jenni "JWoww" Farley. (Gawker)

Also in the L.A. Times: House Republicans have unveiled a plan to end federal arts and humanities agencies and aid to public broadcasting.

-- David Ng

Photo: Wayne Clough, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, in Los Angeles on Thursday. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Monster Mash: Smithsonian chief stands by censorship; Oprah Winfrey on 'Spider-Man'

January 19, 2011 |  8:12 am


Not budging: The head of the Smithsonian has defended his decision in late 2010 to censor a work of art, to which Times art critic Christopher Knight replies that he is only digging a deeper hole for himself. (Los Angeles Times)

Up close: Oprah Winfrey talks with Julie Taymor, director of Broadway's "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark." (O Magazine)

Appointment: Frank Gehry has been named a professor of architecture at his alma mater, the University of Southern California. (Los Angeles Times)

Banding together: The musicians of the bankrupt Louisville Orchestra have formed a fundraising body called Keep Louisville Symphonic. (Louisville Courier-Journal)

Dramatic: The San Francisco Opera has announced its schedule for the 2011-12 season. (Los Angeles Times)

Art theft: Several pieces of bronze art have been stolen from the Ratner Museum in Bethesda, Md. (NBC Washington)

Passing: Milton Rogovin, the renowned social documentary photographer, died Tuesday at age 101. (Associated Press)

Also in the L.A. Times: Melissa Etheridge will channel Green Day for a week in Broadway's "American Idiot."

-- David Ng

Photo: "A Fire in My Belly" by David Wojnarowicz is displayed at the New Museum in New York. The video work was censored by the Smithsonian late last year. Credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Images


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