What a Piet-y. The Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, located in the city of Krefeld, has refused to return Dutch abstract artist Piet Mondrian’s four paintings to Mondrian’s heirs. The heirs claim that he lent the work to the museum before fleeing Europe in 1938. The city’s research suggests that the works could have been donated to the city, but no definitive proof of either side exists. Although the heirs have not yet filed suit against the museum, it would likely be third-barred in Germany. Mondrian’s heirs alluded that they might take their case to the U.S. instead.
Lost and Found. Velázquez’s portrait of Olimpia Maidalchini Pamphilj, Pope Innocent X’s reputed lover and sister-in-law, sold for $3 million in a July 3 auction at Sotheby’s in London. The painting had been lost for almost 300 years until it appeared at an auction in 1980. The sale makes “Portrait of Olimpia Maidalchini Pamphilj” (1591-1657) the third highest purchased Old Master piece in London.
Wright on. Eight of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most notable buildings, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, have been named UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Guggenheim was one of Wright’s last completed works. It opened in 1959. It is the only UNESCO heritage site in New York City other than the Statue of Liberty, although he has another extant building, Crimson Beech, on Staten Island.
The Cézanne Compromise. Although the ownership of Paul Cézanne’s painting La Montagne Sainte-Victoire was contested, the various parties were able to compromise. The painting will usually stay at the Kunstmuseum Bern but will also be shown in Aix-en-Provence, Cézanne’s hometown, for part of each year. The arrangement satisfies both the inheritor, Cornelius Gurlitt, and the Cézanne family, creating a new way of approaching ownership disputes.
Volkswagen drives away. Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei will receive $260,000 from Volkwagen as a result of their legal battle. Ai sued Dutch distributor Skandinavisk Motor after learning that they had used his image Soleil Levant for a campaign to promote Volkswagen Polo without his permission. The image showed thousands of refugee life jackets and appeared on the building of Kunsthal Charlottenborg.
Karma. Riza Aziz, a generous LACMA donor and the producer of the film Wolf of Wall Street has been charged with money laundering in Malaysia. The funds have allegedly been misappropriated from the Malaysian government as part of an embezzlement scandal involving artworks attributed to van Gogh, Picasso, and Monet. Riza’s production company, Red Granite Films, paid $60 million to the U.S. Department of Justice settle civil lawsuits in the scandal. Low Taek Jho, the alleged mastermind behind the fraud and friend of Aziz, is believed to be hiding in China.
Ooh la la. The Paris Brigade for the Suppression of Banditry (BRP) is trying to discover what happened to stolen artwork from the Élysée Palace, the President’s official residence. More than 50,000 items total are thought to have been stolen between November 2012 and January 2013. Authorities blame both careless record-keeping and “sticky-fingered” government employees. Righting Wrongs. The Salzburg Museum will return three amphorae that an Austrian army officer took at the end of the Second World War to the Temryuk Historical Archaeological Museum. Although Russia does not return items that the Soviet Union’s troops looted because they consider them “reparations for Russian heritage losses at the hands of German troops,” director of the Salzburg Museum, Martin Hochleitner believes he is righting a past wrong by returning them.
Au temps pour moi (“my mistake”). A French antique dealer was sued for selling fake silver light fixtures, the purchaser asking to void the sale based on the theory of mistake relating to the substance. The Paris Court of appeals declared that the mistake was substantial, as it related to the historical time period of the antique, and although the purchaser was a professional held to a higher standard, that the mistake was excusable as other experts had shared the same conclusions and that only a scientific analysis proved the contrary. The case is Cour d’appel de Paris, Pôle 2 – chambre 1, 14 mai 2019 n°17/ 10601.